Sports

Keuchel: Need to ‘lock in’ to make playoff roster

CHICAGO — Struggling White Sox lefty Dallas Keuchel understands the upcoming month of September will likely determine his playoff role on the team after lasting just one inning on Friday night against the crosstown Cubs.

“My last 10 starts have been ugly, to say the least,” Keuchel said on Saturday. “There’s probably only a handful of games where I’ve been my true self. I need to lock it in this last month. That’s for sure.”

Keuchel gave up six runs on seven hits and a walk on Friday seeing his ERA rise to 5.00 for the season. He blames his two-seam fastball to right-handers for a lot of his woes. Righties are slugging .425 off that pitch, up from a career average of .376.

“Been searching for that much of the time,” Keuchel stated. “That’s my biggest handicap right now … My lack of two-seam command down and away to righties has been hindering my ability pretty much the whole season.”

Keuchel is part of a dynamic rotation which features Cy Young candidates Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon, along with young hurlers Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease. The foursome have been key to the team’s first-place standing in the American League Central. It won’t be easy to beat any of them out come October.

“You track who’s playing well and who’s pitching well as you go to the end,” manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s a factor that you look at. You put a bunch of factors together. [Keuchel’s] track record is definitely a plus for him.”

Keuchel helped the Houston Astros win a championship in 2017 before signing a 3-year, $55.5 million deal with the White Sox prior to the 2020 season. He compiled a 1.99 ERA last year and said earlier this season that he was pacing himself for the 162-game marathon rather than the 60-game sprint of a year ago. But it hasn’t come together for him so far. Keuchel has a 7.43 ERA in five August starts.

“I wish I had something for you that I wasn’t feeling well,” Keuchel said. “This is the best, physically, I’ve felt all year. It’s mind-boggling … Home runs have been my death wish this year. More so than any other year I’ve been pitching.”

Keuchel has already given up a career high 23 long balls this season, including one to Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom in the first inning on Friday. It remains to be seen if he can fix his game in time for the postseason as the White Sox are a near lock to be playing in October.

“I think that’s fair to say,” Keuchel said, when asked if he was pitching for a postseason roster spot. “I’ve been the weakest starter in the rotation for much of the year. Of course I think about it. Letting myself get rolled up into that idea is the least of my worries right now.

“I’m trying to ride this thing in September and make adjustments and hopefully we’re sitting here talking about a lot of wins instead of a lot of pitiful performances and the team backing me up and we’re winning games here.”

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