Dallas Keuchel is a big reason the Chicago White Sox are headed to the postseason for the first time in 12 years. Trevor Bauer, meanwhile, has played a major role as the Cincinnati Reds have charged into contention for a playoff spot.
Two of the majors’ top pitchers are scheduled to square off when the host Reds aim for a seventh straight win on Saturday night against the AL Central-leading White Sox.
Chicago obviously knew the star it was getting when it signed Keuchel (6-2, 2.19 ERA), the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, to a three-year deal in December.
Keuchel is coming off the injured list after dealing with back spasms. Before he was sidelined, the left-hander did not allow an earned run in 10 innings over his previous two starts, and he is 4-0 with a 1.52 ERA in his past five. His most recent start came on Sept. 6.
Keuchel, who has posted a 3.21 ERA without a decision in two starts versus Cincinnati, has helped the White Sox (33-18) clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2008. Their focus now is on winning the AL Central and bouncing back from a 7-1 loss to the Reds on Friday.
“This is a game, as we say all the time, of, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ So, we’ve got to just continue to play and try to play well,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said.
Chicago will likely be in for another serious challenge against Bauer (4-3, 1.71 ERA), who is the majors’ ERA leader and is tied for fifth with 83 strikeouts. After going 0-3 with a 4.08 ERA in three starts from Aug. 24-Sept. 4, the right-hander has yielded a run, seven hits and fanned 22 with two walks over 14 innings to go 1-0 in his past two starts.
Bauer yielded that lone run over 6 1/3 innings of a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday. There’s talk the Reds could go to a four-man rotation over the final week of the regular season, meaning Bauer might get two more starts following this one.
Cincinnati (26-26) sits at .500 for the first time since Aug. 3 and is tied for second in the NL Central. The top two teams in each division qualify for the postseason.
Pitching every fourth day is “certainly something I’m open to,” Bauer said. “I think we need to get through this weekend series, obviously, and see what the landscape looks like and make decision from there.
“Mainly, at this point of the year, it’s whatever I can do to help the team and get (in the postseason), is where my head’s at.”
Bauer saw plenty of the White Sox during his days in Cleveland, going 8-5 with a 3.68 ERA in 20 games, including 18 career starts.
Chicago’s Yoan Moncada is batting .421 (8-for-19) with two home runs against Bauer. Teammate Tim Anderson is 5-for-27 (.185) versus Bauer but is in the mix for a second consecutive batting title with his .365 average, trailing only the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu (.367).
Joey Votto, who had three hits and one of Cincinnati’s four home runs on Friday, is 0-for-6 lifetime versus Keuchel. Teammate Nick Castellanos, however, is 6-for-16 with a homer.
Castellanos clubbed his 13th homer of the season on Friday. He is 5-for-12 with that home run and two doubles over the past three contests.
–Field Level Media