|2014 MLB Playoffs Expert Picks: World Series Results||Celtics, Rondo impress in Season Opener||Celtics Receive No Love from Vegas||Former Red Sox Peavy Shelled as Royals Force Game 7 in World Series|
After dropping two of three in Fenway against the Yankees, who have now won six of the last seven against the Red Sox, winning the division title rides on a historic New York collapse. With that said, the Red Sox now need to focus on the Wild Card and will see the White Sox, who are in the AL Central hunt, for the first time this season.
Clay Buchholz (0-1, 2.13 ERA, 1.50 WHIP at home in 2009) takes on Jose Contreras (5-11, 5.13 ERA, 1.36 WHIP in 2009) in the opener. Jon Lester (1-0, 2.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP in August), who is pitching well of late and has not lost since July 19, faces Freddy Garcia (0-1, 10.38, 1.85 WHIP in only start of 2009), who has just returned to the majors ingloriously. Tim Wakefield (7-0, 3.92 ERA, 1.34 WHIP at home) returns from the disabled list against Gavin Floyd (10-8, 3.98, 1.25). Junichi Tazawa (2-2, 3.57 ERA, 1.87 WHIP) and John Danks (11-8, 3.85 ERA, 1.32 WHIP) match up in the finale.
Chicago also has a good bullpen including fireballing closer Bobby Jenks (27/31 SVs, 3.65 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.53 K/9). In addition, their middle relievers and setup staff are also very good. Octavio Dotel (2.59 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 11.28 K/9), Matt Thornton (2.65, 1.07, 10.77), and Scott Linebrink (3.45, 1.51, 9.14) are all steady options for Ozzie Guillen.
The White Sox offense is average, however, the longball is an oft-used weapon in their arsenal. Jermaine Dye (.269 BA, 71 RBI, 68 R) leads the team with 24 home runs, with Jim Thome (.255, 72, 53) just behind with 23, and Paul Konerko (.274, 72, 53) just two off the lead with 22. A.J. Pierzynski is the only regular with an average above .300, at .313. He also has 13 home runs, 37 driven in, and 47 runs. Scott Podsednik has not returned to the premier stolen base threat he once was, but his 20 swipes are good for the team lead.
For the Red Sox to win some games, they are going to have to avoid the White Sox home run as the White Sox do not score much any other way. The Red Sox get a break by missing White Sox ace Mark Buehrle and need to take advantage of that. The Red Sox will likely split this series.