Tonight’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago White Sox has at least three interesting sub-plots.
At the individual player level, we’ll see the teams’ top pitchers square off. Both sport impressive season-long stat lines, with Archer at 9-8 with an ERA of 2.54 and a WHIP of 0.99 and Sale at 9-6 with a 3.20 ERA ans a WHIP of 1.05. However, that masks a difficult stretch for both pitchers over the last seven games. During that stretch, Archer is 1-4 with a 3.47 ERA, while Sale is 3-3 with a rather pedestrian 4.04 ERA. Archer was saddled with an undeserved loss in his last start on June 29th against Detroit, in which he fanned 11 while walking none and giving up 3 hits and two unearned runs. Meanwhile, Sox ace Sale fully earned the loss in his last start against the Red Sox, as he gave up 12 hits and 7 earned runs in just five innings. That performance also ended the Sox’s long winning streak, which is definitely not what you’d expect with your ace on the mound.
At the game level, the Sox will be trying to bounce back from a painful loss last night against the Rays. After falling behind early, the Sox rallied to take the lead, the Sox rallied back to tie it at two in the sixth on a Jose Abreu 2-run HR. After giving up a run in the top of the seventh on an Evan Longoria double to fall behind 3-2, they rallied again to take a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh on a second bomb, this time by Carlos Sanchez. Unfortunately, the bullpen could not hold the lead, as Duke and Robertson each emulated Petricka by giving up a single run in the inning each pitched, leaving the Rays up 5-4 heading to the bottom of the ninth. That was when the heartbreak for the Sox really happened. After Alexei Ramirez led off with a single off Rays’ closer Brad Boxberger, and then stole second, Adam LaRoche followed with a broken bat single to center. Ramirez was inexplicably sent around to try to score on the play, but Rays’ CF Kiermaier threw a one hop strike to catcher Curt Cassail to beat him by at least a second. Alexei Ramirez tried to leap over Cassail to avoid the tag, but could not. With one on and one out instead of first and third with no outs, Boxberger collected himself and finished off the Sox’s rally. So, the Rays will enter tonight’s game on an emotional high, while the Sox try to bounce back from a game they could have won but managed to lose.
Finally, at the season level, both teams enter play tonight clinging by a thread to their playoff lives. The Rays are only two games out of the second Wild Card, but have three teams in front of them for that prize. Meanwhile, the Sox are 3.5 games out with six teams, including the Rays, to leapfrog. From the Sox’s perspective, a win tonight would allow them to pull within one game of the Rays. In any case, neither team has much wiggle room left as they take the field tonight.
All told, it promises to be a big game on the south side of Chicago tonight!