The Minnesota Twins are in Chicago Tuesday for game two of a three-game series with the White Sox. The White Sox took game one last night, 8-5, after building a big lead early and hanging on for the win. Chicago was powered by multi-RBI games from Jose Abreu and Matt Davidson. Both teams are playing fairly well at the moment, despite disappointing seasons. The Twins have won five out of their last seven games, and the White Sox have won five out of their last six.
Starting tonight for the Twins is Jose Berrios (11-8 3.75 ERA), and for the White Sox, it is prized prospect Michael Kopech (0-0 0.00 ERA) making his major league debut. The Twins are -114 road favorites. The game total over-under is set at nine runs. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 PM PST from Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.
Michael Kopech throws fire. This kid was the main piece that the White Sox got back out of the Chris Sale deal from the Boston Red Sox, and Chicago fans have been waiting for his debut since the moment they pulled the trigger on the move to acquire him. At triple-A this season, Kopech has been striking guys out at an elite level. He has a K/9 ratio of 12.1. If he were able to post that same number in the majors, he would rank third in the American League right now, behind just Garret Cole of the Houston Astros, and you guessed it, Chris Sale.
Kopech will face a Minnesota team that is just playing out the string right now after selling away several keep piece to contending teams at the trade deadline. The Twins are just twentieth in the majors in home runs and on-base percentage, so it should be a soft landing spot for the rookie.
The Twins will start their own version of a promising young starter with Jose Berrios on the mound. Berrios is just twenty-four years old and is in his second full season as a starter for Minnesota. Berrios has been mostly solid this season but has struggled to get deep into games recently.
In the last month, Berrios has gone less than five innings in three out of his last four starts. He hasn’t pitched all that poorly in those starts, he has just seen his pitch count swell and can’t seem to get deep into games right now. And that is a bit concerning as this kid has gone seven innings or more in twelve starts this season.
You have to wonder if maybe he isn’t fully healthy at this point. It wouldn’t make a ton of sense to have him pitching through pain as the Twins are playing for nothing, but how else can you explain the sudden drop off in productivity? It wouldn’t shock me to see Berrios hit the DL for some much-needed rest if he struggles to get past the fifth inning again tonight.
As a general rule, I won’t bet a game between two teams that are completely out of contention this late in the season. There are just too many variables that can’t be predicted. Maybe the manager wants to prove a point to the youngsters on the team and bench one of his best players to show that nobody is untouchable. A lot like what Clint Hurdle just did in Pittsburgh when he benched his starting center fielder, Starling Marte, yesterday for not hustling.
Or maybe the skipper wants to try out some new defensive positioning or give a young guy a couple of at-bats he may or may not be ready for. It is just hard to take a hard stance on who will win a game when neither team has winning as a high priority. And right now, that is the case for both of these teams. They are both completely out of contention and winning or losing this game won’t do anything at all to change that.
So, why am I writing this up you ask? Michael Kopech. And it’s not that I think this kid is going to show up in the big leagues and just run through people, he might, but that’s not why I like the White Sox tonight. It is because the rest of the team, and the fans, should really embrace the youngster tonight. When you look at this Chicago team, they really haven’t played a meaningful game all season long.
They were expected to be really bad as they tore everything down last year and are clearly rebuilding, and they have lived up to those expectations. But this game? With this kid on the mound? This matters to Chicago. They have been waiting to see what this guy can bring since the moment they traded the face of their franchise to get him.
I think Kopech himself will likely be solid, I doubt he will go more than five innings, six tops, but he should pile up a couple of strikeouts, and we know for certain the crowd, and the squad, will be behind him. Throw in the fact that the Twins are absolutely horrendous on the road, they only have more road wins than Tigers, Orioles, and Royals this season, and I smell an upset.
I always like taking home underdogs. Teams are always going to play a little better at home, those are just the facts. And for a team that has barely sold a ticket at home all season long, I expect there to be some fans in the stands tonight for the debut of their future ace. So, I will back the Chicago White Sox as home underdogs and hope that we see flashes of what Kopech can bring to the table. Give me the Chicago White Sox as home dogs at +104!