On Friday night, the Red Sox (80-62) will kick off a three-game set against the White Sox (80-60) in Chicago. Boston dropped two out of three against Tampa Bay, but won a close Game 3 in thrilling fashion to salvage the series finale. They now lead the Yankees by one game in the Wild Card race, with the red-hot Blue Jays (0.5 games behind New York, 1.5 behind Boston) also in close pursuit. Oakland and Seattle both currently sit two games behind the Yankees for the second slot (three games behind Boston).

Game 1 (Friday, 8:10 PM ET) 

Tanner Houck (0-3, 3.26 ERA) will be on the bump for Boston on Friday. The young right-hander has posted a solid season, punching out 62 batters in just 49.2 IP. On September 4th against the Indians, Houck went five shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out seven. The Sox will look to stretch Houck out over six or more innings, as his longest start of the season is just 5.1 IP.

Chicago’s starter for Game 1 is currently listed as TBD (to be decided).

Game 2 (Saturday, 7:10 PM ET) 

Boston’s starter for Game 2 is also listed as TBD.

Dylan Cease (11-7, 3.87 ERA) will make the start in Game 2 for the White Sox. Cease has been a pleasant surprise this season, posting a 1.22 WHIP and a .221 opposing average in 148.2 innings of work. His 197 strikeouts rank fifth in all of baseball behind Wheeler, Cole, Ray, and Scherzer. In his last seven appearances, the former Cubs sixth-rounder is 4-1 with a 3.15 ERA.

Game 3 (Sunday, 2:10 PM ET)

Chris Sale (3-0, 2.52 ERA) will take the ball in the series finale. Last time out against Tampa Bay, Sale endured his shortest outing since his return, surrendering five runs (just one earned) in 3.2 innings of work. While the former White Sox ace gave up 10 hits, it was a slew of infield knocks and poor defensive play that hurt him. He still managed to strike out six while walking one, providing assurance that Sox fans shouldn’t be worried about the southpaw.

Chicago’s starter is listed as TBD for Game 3 as well.

Keys to the Series 

Aside from Nate Eovaldi’s seven shutout innings in the series finale, the Sox pitching staff struggled mightily against Tampa. The bullpen in particular faltered, posting an obscene 9.73 ERA in the three-game set (12 ER in 11.1 IP). That type of performance can not happen in a close Wild Card race.

Additionally, the Sox need to carry the energy from Wednesday night into Chicago. If they can come out playing lively baseball and take early leads, they will win the series in the south side.

Storylines 

On Tuesday, the Red Sox activated Kiké Hernández and Danny Santana off the COVID IL. In a corresponding move, they optioned Franchy Cordero to Triple-A Worcester and DFA’ed Taylor Motter. 

Hernández’s return is significant for the Red Sox, as they have sorely missed their productive center fielder. In his first season in Boston, Hernández is batting .255 with a .341 OBP and a .799 OPS. He has mashed 17 homers in 114 games, while driving in 51. With the rest of September remaining, Kiké has already posted career-highs in runs, hits, total bases, doubles, and walks drawn. He has clearly proven himself to be a core member of this Boston team, and he’ll look to keep contributing down the stretch. 

They also made six roster moves Friday.

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