The Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians have featured some stellar pitching performances over the weekend, and another could be on the way Sunday. There could be two, in fact.
With a marquee pitching matchup — Shane Bieber of Cleveland against Lucas Giolito of Chicago — looming for the finale Sunday night, runs may again be scarce for both sides.
Chicago knows it must adapt and capitalize in tight situations amid the organization’s quest to return to the postseason for the first time since 2008. The White Sox aren’t shy about considering Cleveland a benchmark. Their American League Central rivals have topped 90 victories in four consecutive seasons.
“The Indians, it seems like every time they come to town or we go to Cleveland, we are facing some pretty good arms,” White Sox outfielder Adam Engel said. “Makes it fun. You just have to stay disciplined, stay really focused in your work. It always feels like you’re going to be part of a good baseball game.”
Chicago’s 2-0 victory in Friday’s series opener held that distinction more than the Indians’ 7-1 response Saturday.
With the bright lights of ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” turned on for the finale, the White Sox and Indians will look to keep pace with the division-leading Minnesota Twins.
“Both of those teams are very good clubs,” Engel said of the Twins and Indians. “Two totally different makeups. They win games differently. We have a pretty balanced attack ourselves. It’s fun playing good baseball against good teams.”
The ESPN telecast initially was set to feature the Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals, but the series was postponed due to the Cardinals’ ongoing bout with positive COVID-19 tests. The White Sox haven’t played in the Sunday night slot since May 12, 2013.
Chicago will look to accomplish what other teams haven’t in the first two weeks of the season – getting the best of Bieber.
Bieber (3-0, 0.83 ERA) is aiming to win his fourth straight start and enters Sunday with a major league best 35 strikeouts – the third-most in history through three starts.
The right-hander has limited opponents to a .160 batting average in 21 2/3 innings while scattering three walks and 12 hits.
“He has improved dramatically,” Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said. “He was a good pitcher to begin with. He threw a lot of strikes, he was a strike-throwing machine. On top of that, his secondary pitches are plus. He can throw any pitch at any count. His confidence level is very high.”
In six career starts against the White Sox, Bieber is 2-2 with a 3.08 ERA and has 45 strikeouts in 38 innings, while allowing six home runs.
Giolito (1-1, 5.17 ERA) has recovered from a rough outing against the Twins on Opening Day, holding Cleveland and Milwaukee to two runs in 12 combined innings over his past two starts while fanning 15.
He is 2-2 with a 2.56 ERA in five career starts against the Indians, with 29 strikeouts and three home runs allowed in 31 2/3 innings.
Indians left fielder Jordan Luplow snapped an 0-for-21 slump to begin the season Saturday with a two-run home run as part of a six-run fourth inning.
The White Sox are hitting .222 with eight extra-base hits and nine runs scored over their last five games.
–Field Level Media