MLB: Oakland Athletics at Tampa Bay Rays

Sonny Gray, For Real This Time — Game Preview & Lineups 4/6

Waking up to a “fun fact” indicating that if the White Sox win tonight, they’ll be three games over .500 for the first time since 2012 was a depressing start to my day. Though it’s also a bit surprising that they’ve been as much as two over any time more recently given the teams they’ve been fielding. The Sox are off to a non-disappointing start and at this stage, it’s plenty to hang our hats on. They also have a chance to open a season with three road wins for the first time since 1992, and going home for the US Cellular Field opener without a tally in the loss column would be so huge for clubhouse morale that even Jimmy Rollins-Adam Eaton feud truthers would have to feel good about the team mood.

Carlos Rodon has gotten a lot of ink this winter thanks to his strong 2015 finish and the expectations that accompany him into his sophomore season, including a piece this morning going into the details on why we may be looking at a breakout. What’s the big deal? After a rocky beginning to his career in which he basically alternated decent and tough-to-watch outings, he closed the year on a high note, lowering his ERA in each of his final eight starts. Getting deeper into games and limiting, but by no stretch eliminating, walk totals proved a good look for him, and leaves him room to build.

A couple of days recovered from sickness, Sonny Gray is now prepared to make his first start of the season. Gray is coming off of a season in which he finished third in Cy Young voting, but isn’t pegged by PECOTA to repeat on that success. As James pointed out earlier in the week, Gray’s peripherals don’t paint the picture of the same pitcher at home as they do on the road. For less than mysterious reasons, he pitches to contact much more, relying on the cavernous O.Co Coliseum to lend him protection. The White Sox have walked just three times in their first two games, and if Gray elects to consistently stay inside the zone, it may prove to be helpful to the seemingly aggressive swinging South side squad.

White Sox Lineup:

  1. Adam Eaton – RF
  2. Jimmy Rollins – SS
  3. Jose Abreu – 1B
  4. Todd Frazier – 3B
  5. Melky Cabrera – LF
  6. Avisail Garcia – DH
  7. Brett Lawrie – 2B
  8. Alex Avila – C
  9. Austin Jackson – CF

Athletics Lineup:

  1. Billy Burns – CF
  2. Khris Davis – LF
  3. Jed Lowrie – 2B
  4. Danny Valencia – 3B
  5. Billy Butler – DH
  6. Josh Phegley – C
  7. Mark Canha – RF
  8. Yonder Alonso – 1B
  9. Marcus Semien – SS

Yonder Alonso, the lone left-handed swinger in tonight’s lineup for Oakland, is 1-for-5 thus far in the series. The Sox failed to force Josh Phegley to make an out in last night’s contest so I’m sure he’s feeling pretty good about himself. The MVP of the series in the first two games for the Athletics could be argued in favor of Marcus Semien. The glove-last shortstop might be batting ninth, but he’s collected a pair of hits and a walk, and has even yet to commit an error. Some quick mental math confirms that puts him well behind his 2015 pace, where he committed 35.

Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu have both hit the ball well in each of the first two nights, despite the latter having a couple of poor looking plate appearances last night. Eaton is riding a streak of 24 games in which he’s reached base, the longest of his career. I’d be unsurprised to see both get aggressive early in the game before the cool air settles in to the East bay and keeps the ball from carrying much.


Lead Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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