Newly atop the American League wild-card standings, the Boston Red Sox look to secure their position over the course of three games at the Chicago White Sox beginning Friday.
The Red Sox (80-62) seized the pole position Wednesday with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays coupled with a New York Yankees loss. The Yankees dropped their sixth straight Thursday to up idle Boston’s lead for the top spot to one game.
New York was swept at home in four games by the Toronto Blue Jays, who are 1 1/2 games back of the Red Sox courtesy of an eight-game winning streak.
Right-hander Tanner Houck (0-3, 3.26 ERA) will get the start for Boston to begin a pivotal six-game road trip that continues with three games at the Seattle Mariners. Lefty Carlos Rodon (11-5, 2.41) is expected to toe the rubber for Chicago.
The White Sox (80-60) maintain a double-digit lead in the AL Central standings and appear destined for a first-round playoff series against the Houston Astros.
Chicago was in action Thursday afternoon, losing 3-1 to the Oakland Athletics on the road. The defeat was the team’s fourth in its last six games, as several key players are sidelined by injury.
The White Sox are hopeful Eloy Jimenez (knee) will return Friday, while Tim Anderson (hamstring) remains out indefinitely.
“I hope he gets the green light soon,” manager Tony La Russa said of the star shortstop. “We’ve managed to survive, but we certainly haven’t thrived.”
On the mound, right-handers Lance Lynn (knee) and Lucas Giolito (hamstring) are on the injured list, though Lynn could pitch in Sunday’s series finale. Rodon starting Friday would mark his first outing since Sept. 1 due to a shoulder injury.
Rodon gave up one run over five innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates in that performance to earn his third straight win. He is 0-3 with a 3.96 ERA in four career starts against the Red Sox.
Boston is dealing with a notable group of absences as well as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak affecting the club. Among those sidelined is All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who could be cleared to play as soon as Friday.
“It’s not that easy a decision, because we want these guys to be right. That’s the most important thing,” said skipper Alex Cora. “When we see them, we’ll sit down with the coaching staff, obviously the medical staff, and decide what we’re going to do.”
The Red Sox’s win Wednesday snapped a three-game skid.
Houck was nearly flawless over five scoreless innings against the Cleveland Indians last time out, allowing just three hits and striking out seven. He was stuck with a no-decision, as he remains winless in 10 starts this year.
Houck faced the White Sox for the first time in April, surrendering three runs over 4 1/3 innings in a loss.
After Boston, Chicago will host the Los Angeles Angels for three games before embarking on an unconventional 11-game road trip that includes five straight at Cleveland.
–Field Level Media