The top two sides in the American League Central go head-to-head for the final time in a three-game series.
The Cleveland Guardians hold a four game lead over the Chicago White Sox after defeating the Minnesota Twins in four games of a five-game series.
Cleveland Guardians versus Chicago White Sox, Game One of Three
Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago, Illinois
20.10 EDT, Tuesday, September 20, 2022
How to watch
Bally Sports Great Lakes, NBCSCH, MLBN
CLE Guardians N/A, CHI White Sox N/A
It's now or never for the White Sox. They have been coasting along just a few games back from either the Minnesota Twins or the Cleveland Guardians for a while now.
They have been unable to get the job done and fallen short at the final hurdle when the opportunities have been there.
With manager Tony La Russa not yet back in the dugout with health issues, Miguel Cairo has been taking charge of team duties.
Chicago is four games back of Cleveland in the AL Central and you get the feeling that the White Sox require to win all three to have a realistic chance of making the playoffs. This is probably because the Guardians have three winnable games against the Texas Rangers, also six games against the Kansas City Royals.
If the White Sox lose one of the three games against the Guardians then they lose the division tiebreaker as well. However, Cleveland entered this spell having played 13 games in 12 days, this can only be good news for the White Sox having had Monday off this week.
Shane Bieber in the past six weeks has been sensational, close to his 2020 American League Cy Young award form.
In that shortened season he posted a 1.63 ERA with 122 strikeouts, in his last 10 games Bieber has a 1.68 ERA with 74 strikeouts and nine walks. In the season as a whole, the 27-year-old has been pretty solid, he had a 3.24 ERA in the first-half of the season, but has found another level as the Guardians close in on regaining their AL Central Division crown.
Speaking to the official Cleveland Guardians website, Bieber said: "I think my curveball usage is down a little bit, but the response and the feedback that I’m getting and what Austin Hedges is telling me and the hitters are telling me is that I’m right where I want it to be.
"My other pitches are playing up, and I’m going to use those a little bit and I’ll throw the curveball when I need to. It showed up in some of the bigger situations today, so that was nice to rely on."
On Saturday the White Sox announced that pitcher Michael Kopech was going on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation. Chicago recalled right-handed pitcher Davis Martin from Triple-A Charlotte as cover for Kopech.
The 26-year-old Kopech had only just recovered from a previous stint on the injured list following a knee strain and by the time that he recovers, the White Sox could be out of contention for the playoffs.
Interim White Sox manager Miguel Cairo said before Saturday’s game to the official website: "We're going to see where he's at in seven days. Play catch and see how he feels. Hopefully he comes back, he’s going to come back this year."
The Cleveland Guardians have won nine of the 16 meetings between them and the White Sox this season, although Chicago has won four of the last five, they need to win all three of the remaining games to supersede the Guardians in the H2H tiebreaker should things get tight at the top of the AL Central.
The White Sox won the Division last season and won 10 of the 19 meetings overall, which was their first claim on the Divisional crown since 2008.
The Minnesota Twins won the Division in 2019 & 2020. Prior to that it was Cleveland for a couple of seasons, even the Guardians (or the Indians as they were then known) reached the World Series, but being defeated by the Chicago Cubs.
Can the Chicago White Sox win all three games to preserve not only their quest to edge ahead of the Guardians, but the tiebreaker as well? It's hard to see it, the Guardians are playing great baseball right now.
Beating a tired looking outfit in the Minnesota Twins is no great shakes but their young roster looks good. Cleveland could be a surprise package in the playoffs.