NEW YORK — The Chicago White Sox pitchers took a lot away from their first series against the New York Yankees last week at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Yankees won three of the four games, but the pitching made strides as the series went along. The Sox allowed 25 runs in the first two games and seven the last two.
“(We learned) the importance of getting ahead and staying on the attack instead of falling behind in hitters’ counts, relying on making a really, really good pitch,” starter Dallas Keuchel said earlier this week in Kansas City, Mo. “As easy as it sounds, it’s tough sometimes.
“That’s really the main point. Moving forward, we want to do a better job. (Pitching coach) Ethan (Katz) has really preached that, so that’s a testament to what he’s been saying. If we can get that on track, I think we’re going to be really, really good.”
Keuchel was slated to start Friday against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, but the game was postponed because of impending inclement weather.
It will be made up as part of a doubleheader Sunday, with the first game starting at 2:05 p.m. Central time.
The postponement gives the Sox some relief after playing five games in four days in Kansas City.
“This is better for everybody,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s a good day for our bullpen. It gives (Kendall Graveman) a day and (Liam) Hendriks. We could have played, but this time of the year we’ll take it.”
Keuchel will be on the mound for Saturday’s game, which begins at 12:05 p.m.
Johnny Cueto will pitch Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader and Michael Kopech in Game 2. The Sox on Friday returned Kopech from the paternity list and optioned reliever Ryan Burr to Triple-A Charlotte.
Keuchel (2-3, 5.54 ERA) is coming off back-to-back impressive outings, most recently Saturday against the Yankees when he allowed four hits, walked three and struck out three in five scoreless inning.
“I’d still like to get better on maneuvering the counts in my favor,” he said. “Instead of playing catch-up 2-0 or 1-0, I’d like to be hovering 60 or 70% first-pitch strikes. And that’s not out of the realm (of possibility).
“Some of my best years have been 68, 69, 70%. A few bad years have been right around 50, so it’s a coin flip. Most of the stuff (Katz) preaches is what I want to do every time out as well.”
Keuchel did not factor in the decision Saturday, a game the Sox won 3-2 on Luis Robert’s RBI single in the ninth inning. After the 86-pitch outing, Keuchel expressed disappointment in not pitching in the sixth inning, which led to a conversation the next day with La Russa.
“We, the team, are mostly appreciative and excited about the five innings he pitched,” La Russa said Sunday. “His history, since I’ve been here, in the sixth inning has been not good.”
Keuchel pitched a season-high six innings May 8 in Boston. He allowed two runs, both in the sixth, on eight hits in the 3-2 win.
“I’m a big believer in earning stuff,” said Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner with the Houston Astros. “I like to think that my baseball card says I’ve earned some stuff, but at the same time you have to reinvent yourself every five days to be who you want to be. I’m no different.
“Everybody in this room is the same. I did tell him that the only time I’ve gone in the sixth inning is Boston this year. So the numbers are going to be skewed a little bit. The more I like to be where I’m at, the more it’s going to get better. Both of those runs came on some soft contact. Those numbers work in my favor more so than just seeing two runs on the board in the sixth inning in Boston.
“Take the good with the good.”
Keuchel is pushing forward and said he’s “nowhere near where I want to be.”
“The last couple of outings have been a nice trend,” Keuchel said. “But I’d rather be finishing really really strong, so I’d rather get that first bad one in Cleveland (10 runs, eight earned, on 10 hits with one walk in one-plus innings April 20) out of the way early than late as tough as it is to look back and see. Just one of those things where we’ll talk about it here hopefully in July and August and lot more wins under the belt, lot more team wins and going six, seven innings.”
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