The Cleveland Guardians will look for young right-hander Triston McKenzie to give them another boost when he takes the mound against the host Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night.
McKenzie (10-11, 3.08 ERA) pitched seven strong innings in each of his past two outings, helping the Guardians win those key games against the Minnesota Twins. The victories put a big dent in the Twins' hopes of catching Cleveland in the American League Central.
The 25-year-old is now locked in on the White Sox, who couldn't stay with the Guardians in the opener of the three-game series on Tuesday night and lost 10-7 in 11 innings.
Cleveland (81-67) has won 11 of its past 13 games overall to hold a five-game lead over the White Sox (76-72) for first place in the AL Central with 14 games left for both teams.
The Guardians and White Sox traded leads into extra innings on Tuesday before Cleveland exploded for five runs in the 11th.
Miguel Cairo, who is managing the White Sox while Tony La Russa recovers from recent heart-related issues, took responsibility for the loss.
"I should have done a better job today," Cairo said. "I wasn't prepared."
Chicago will be up against a hot pitcher in McKenzie, who's 1-0 in three starts this month with a 2.29 ERA.
"These are must-win games for us and we're going to go out there and play like it," McKenzie said after giving up three runs and seven hits in a 4-3 win against the Twins on Friday.
McKenzie beat the visiting White Sox on Aug. 19, striking out a career-high 14 batters while allowing two runs and six hits in seven innings of the 5-2 win.
He had two other strong performances in victories against Chicago on July 23 and April 20, giving him a 1-0 mark in three starts against the White Sox this season with a 2.12 ERA.
McKenzie wasn't nearly as successful against the White Sox last season, posting an 0-2 record in five starts with a 11.21 ERA.
McKenzie will face some stiff opposition against Chicago veteran Lance Lynn, who has won his past four starts with a 1.03 ERA in that span.
Lynn (7-5, 3.99) most recently beat the Guardians in a one-game makeup on Thursday, allowing two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings of an 8-2 win in Cleveland.
Overall, he's 5-0 with a 1.43 ERA in his past seven starts.
Lynn is 5-4 in 12 career starts against Cleveland with a 3.60 ERA, and 1-1 in four starts this season with a 4.50 ERA.
The Guardians benefitted from solid results at both ends of their lineup in the series opener.
Leadoff hitter Steven Kwan went 4-for-6 with two RBIs and two runs. He's 11-for-21 in his past four games overall.
"He kind of wills himself to be a good player," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said after the win on Tuesday. "Whatever the situation dictates, I think that's how he just plays the game."
Francona was also thrilled to see Myles Straw deliver a key two-run double in the 11th inning while hitting at the No. 9 spot, extending his hitting streak to nine games.
"This is a kid that led off for us for 1 1/2 years," Francona said. "When he's doing that, it's a difference for us."
--Field Level Media