ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - On paper, anyway, the White Sox appear to be in good shape to end their humiliating seven-game losing streak.
On Thursday night, they will face Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann, who not only enters with a 0-2 record and a 6.32 ERA, but he struggled in an outing against the White Sox already this season.
Of course there is absolutely no reason to feel good about your chances when you have to rely on an offense as stagnant as the White Sox’s is right now. Over the past nine games the White Sox are batting under .200 as a team and have scored just 20 runs. By comparison, they scored 62 runs in their first nine games and batted .307.
And then comes the news that perhaps Niemann has solved the delivery issues that have plagued him since returning from a shoulder strain that put him on the disabled list late last season.
The 6-foot-9 Niemann can be devastating when he is down in the zone, using his height to deliver downhill from an extreme angle. He was able to show some of that in his most recent start against the Twins, even though he ended up with a no-decision. The Rays rallied to win the game on a Johnny Damon home run.
“When I get the ball up, everything flattens out, and every single one of my pitches becomes less effective,” Niemann told the Tampa Bay Tribune. “For me, keeping the ball down and having that good, quality angle allows me to get away with more mistakes and my good pitches are better.”
White Sox starter Gavin Floyd will pitch opposite Niemann and the offense might want to take care of a Rays pitcher that is in flux right now. It only gets harder on Friday when the White Sox open a three-game series at Detroit against Tigers ace Justin Verlander.