Keuchel gets Game 2 nod: 'This is what I signed up for' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
This is what Dallas Keuchel signed up for.
When Keuchel takes the hill Wednesday in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Series, he'll be doing exactly what the White Sox envisioned he'd do when they inked him to a three-year contract last offseason. He'll be bringing his accomplished, veteran know-how to a critically important playoff game. He'll be the dependable pitcher that adds some heft to the inexperienced team around him.
The hope is, obviously, that he'll also be good.
Certainly that's what he was during the regular season, finishing second in the American League with a 1.99 ERA. Now he's tasked with carrying that excellence into the postseason, where he'll be the guy with the ball in his hand as the White Sox go for their first playoff series win since the 2005 World Series.
"This is what I signed up for. This is what I envisioned," Keuchel said Tuesday. "With this team, I’m finally back to who I want to be.
"The last couple of years, I dealt with numerous nagging injures, haven’t really found my rhythm. I’ve been fortunate to make pitches when I need to and at the end of the season have a good amount of stats and good peripherals, but this year I felt like I had turned a corner back to where I wanted to be. And for me to feel that way, it gives me just a little bit extra confidence to help this group go where they want to go, and that includes myself."
The White Sox really couldn't ask for a better pitcher with the series on the line. Keuchel has a World Series ring on his finger from his time with the Houston Astros and a total of 12 postseason starts under his belt. Couple that postseason experience with the performances he turned in throughout the regular season, and the A's, who ranked just eighth in the AL in runs scored this season and managed just three hits in Game 1, should be shaking in their white shoes.
"It’s special," manager Rick Renteria said of being able to turn to Keuchel in Game 2. "You have the opportunity to have somebody go out and do what (he does). He’s been there before. Hopefully it’s a good moment.
"He’s been through it all. That certainly will give him a step up."
The White Sox could use for Keuchel to shut down the A's in a similar way that Lucas Giolito did in Game 1 for multiple reasons. Obviously, they'd like to win this best-of-three series and advance to the ALDS. But if they don't, they're staring at a much scarier situation in a decisive Game 3.
The White Sox have two elite starting pitchers, but no one stepped up in the weekend auditions for the job of Game 3 starter. Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning and Reynaldo López all struggled mightily and gave up a combined six home runs in a combined nine innings in three games against the Cubs. López didn't even make the White Sox roster for this postseason series, and neither Cease nor Dunning inspire vast amounts of confidence following their most recent outings.
That's the long way of saying the White Sox would be well served to wrap this series up Wednesday.
Thankfully for the White Sox, Keuchel puts them in position to do just that. He's been as dominant as Giolito throughout the 2020 campaign. And Giolito showed what an elite arm can do against the A's offense on Tuesday. Between his performance and a trio of White Sox homers, a 4-1 win felt like a much more lopsided one.
Good pitching will make that happen. And good pitching is what wins playoff games and playoff series.
So Dallas, you're up.
Just like you signed up for.
"I just want to help to do what everyone in the group wants to do," Keuchel said, "and that’s to win championships."