The Chicago White Sox are set to begin a stretch of 13 games in 13 days on Thursday and need Gavin Floyd to set the tone.The Sox need a strong outing from the right-hander and his success starts with throwing strikes.
Floyd, 8-9 with a 4.43 ERA this season, will oppose former teammate Brandon McCarthy, 6-3 with a 2.54 ERA, in the series opener Friday against the surging Oakland Athletics, who are half a game behind the White Sox in the standings.
In his last start against the Los Angels Angels, three walks and five runs in just over six innings, Floyd hit leadoff man Mike Trout on a 1-2 pitch, leading to a three run first inning that the Sox could not overcome. The control problems are not isolated for Floyd.
Over the course of his last seven starts, Floyd has walked 22 batters or just under four per game. While he found success during those games, posting a 4-2 record while giving up two earned runs or fewer five times, he is walking a dangerous tightrope.
The Sox had three good outings against the Kansas City Royals. Chris Sale (two earned runs), Jake Peavy (three) and Jose Quintana (two), gave the Sox offense a chance to win all three games. While the offense did not live up to their end of the bargain (missing two starters in each of the last two games of the series did not help), the Sox had a chance to win all three.
The offense is banged up and can use the day off, but the momentum the top three starters gave the pitching staff may not carry over unless Floyd can come out strong against the A’s and throw strikes. He is setting the table for a run that ends with the New York Yankees as the Sox fight to hold off the Detroit Tigers for first in the AL Central.
When Floyd commands the strike zone, his devastating curveball is most effective, and his ability to keep batters off-balance is at its greatest. That is the pitcher that needs to show up Thursday and the rest of the season. With Philip Humber relegated to the bullpen, the White Sox seem to have a solid starting five in place, but it is up to Floyd to be the bridge between good and dominant.
Scheduled to follow Floyd are Francisco Liriano on Saturday, and Sale takes the mound in the series finale on Sunday.