Jose Abreu is having a strong second half at the plate, leading the rejuvenated White Sox offense. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

Red Sox-White Sox series preview

August 24, 2015 - 7:20 am
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The Red Sox will continue their tour of the AL Central on Monday when they travel to Chicago to face off against the White Sox for three games. Still inhabitants of the AL East cellar with a 56-68 record, the Red Sox have shown signs of life in the last two weeks. After scoring 45 runs in three games against the Mariners and winning a three-game series, the they repeated their performance against the Indians, taking two out of three against the Tribe, including a 6-4 win over reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Strong pitching from Wade Miley and Henry Owens helped the Red Sox get off to a two-game advantage over the Royals during their four-game weekend set, and they tied a season-high by establishing a four-game winning streak. However, their good fortune eventually ran out when they dropped the third game of the series 6-3 and blew a two-run lead in the ninth Sunday to fall 8-6 and settle for a series split. The key to the Red Sox' resurgence has been the timely hitting of the offense, which averaged 8.2 runs per game over the 10-game homestand. Multi-hit performances from the likes of youngsters Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Travis Shaw and Rusney Castillo have revitalized a lineup that had grown much too content with relying on the inconsistent bats of Hanley Ramirez (.254 AVG) and Pablo Sandoval (.259). "These younger players have finally gained a little traction," interim manager Torey Lovullo said of his young hitters on Saturday. "They're starting to get a good feel for what it takes to be a major league player. Some of the players who have been here all year, some of the guys that are joining us, there's really continuity, there's a really good vibe that these young players create. They like one another. They get along on and off the field. You're seeing that play out right now. I think that's why we're being so successful on the field. I think these guys are having fun playing and playing with a lot of energy and they're really coming into their own." While the hitting has received a lot of the credit for the Sox' recent success, and rightfully so, the pitching staff deserves a nod as well. Miley and Joe Kelly combined to toss 26 1/3 innings during the homestand, giving up just five runs between them while whiffing 23 batters. Overall, Sox starters turned in quality starts in seven of their last 10 contests. The White Sox are in a nearly identical situation as the Red Sox. With a 58-64 record and a potential last-place finish in their division on the horizon, they also are evaluating where their organization stands in the wake of a wildly unsuccessful offseason. Nearly every acquisition the White Sox made this past winter has underwhelmed in 2015. Adam LaRoche, brought in to protect Jose Abreu in the lineup, has slashed an abysmal .210/.296/.345 and has struck out 44 more times than he's hit safely. Melky Cabrera, a bargain-bin find due to his history with PEDs, has produced his worst full-season OPS since 2010 (.706). Jeff Samardzija, one of the key components to the Athletics' 2014 playoff push, has given up the most hits (179) and earned runs (88) in the AL. The White Sox have played near .500 baseball since the All-Star break, going 17-19. On their recent seven-game West Coast trip, they took three games, snagging just one out of four from the Angels but outlasting the Mariners for two wins. Victors in three of their last four, the White Sox recall fondly marching into Fenway Park with momentum at the end of July when they took three out of four from the Red Sox. Again, similarly with the Red Sox, the Chicago offense has exploded of late. In their last four games, the White Sox have notched 31 runs, including an 11-run outburst against the Mariners last Friday. After that particular game, an 11-4 win, White Sox manager Robin Ventura refused to count his team out of the playoff picture. "Crazier stuff has happened," Ventura said. "Guys are still scrapping and getting after it and that's what you want. You want believers in there and right now they're believing they can go out and win games." Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Monday: Joe Kelly (6-6, 5.37 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (8-9, 4.64 ERA) Tuesday: Wade Miley (10-9, 4.41 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (7-10, 3.60 ERA) Wednesday: Rick Porcello (5-11, 5.81 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (12-7, 3.34 ERA) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- Shaw has come out of nowhere to become one of the most promising youngsters on the Red Sox roster. The lefty is slashing .410/.452/.795 in his last nine games and he owns a 1.029 OPS for the season. -- Castillo has been hot since getting recalled at the end of July. In his last 20 games, the Cuban outfielder is batting .342 with 13 RBIs and 17 runs scored. Against the Royals this past weekend, Castillo went 4-for-7 with a triple and three runs. -- Though he hasn't made good on his Cy Young prediction in 2015, Kelly is starting to turn his season around. The right-hander has won his last four starts, posting a 3.22 ERA over that stretch. WHO'S HOT: WHITE SOX -- Like his countryman Castillo, Abreu has been hitting well during the second half. Since the All-Star break, the hulking first baseman is slashing .281/.370/.533 with eight home runs and 10 doubles in 35 games. -- Chris Sale continues to prove time and time again his name belongs in the conversation for best pitcher in baseball. The sidearmer has whiffed 29 batters in his last two starts, while also generating 44 swings and misses. Opponents' batting average against him over these past 14 innings of work? Just .104. -- Jose Quintana has proven himself a solid No. 2 pitcher this season. The Red Sox are all too familiar with the southpaw after he shut them down for two runs over 6 1/3 innings on July 29. It's been more of the same lately for Quintana as he held the Angels to two runs over six innings in his most recent outing last Thursday. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Since the All-Star break, Hanley Ramirez has been played miserably. The 31-year-old has not hit a home run nor has he cracked the 20-hit mark during this stretch of 25 games. He has one hit in his last 17 at-bats dating back to his 0-for-5 against the Indians last Tuesday. -- Rick Porcello will make his return to the rotation Wednesday after spending nearly four weeks on the DL for a triceps strain. He was not encouraging in the weeks leading up to his DL stint as he had a 6.95 ERA in five previous starts. -- Normally one of the most reliable arms out of the bullpen for the Red Sox, right-hander Junichi Tazawa has struggled mightily of late. He's blown leads in four of his last nine appearances, including Sunday's meltdown against the Royals in which he allowed six hits and four runs in just an inning of work. WHO'S NOT: WHITE SOX -- Adam LaRoche has done more to hurt the White Sox than help them in 2015. He's batted just .210 and whacked a lowly 11 long balls, and it's only gotten worse lately. He's slashed .151/.196/.302 during the month of August and has struck out (15) nearly twice as much as he's hit (eight). -- Cabrera, normally a stable force in the lineup, has been struck with a cold spell. The left fielder has six hits in his last 40 at-bats and has one extra-base hit in his last 10 contests. -- Samardzija has not had a pleasant month. In three out of four starts this month, he's allowed six or more earned runs, producing a ghastly 9.27 ERA and four White Sox losses.

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