Dallas Keuchel has the pedigree, résumé and World Series ring.
To his credit, he knows in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, those things only carry so much weight when it comes to making the White Sox’ postseason roster.
“I’ve been the weakest starter in the rotation for much of the year. It’s me bringing up the rear,” Keuchel said Saturday. “I’ve always been a team-first guy. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll be as mad as whoever else isn’t on it. But if you’re not getting the job done, you don’t expect a spot.”
Keuchel, 33, signed a three-year, $55 million contract two offseasons ago that makes him the highest-paid player on the Sox’ roster this season at $18 million (Jose Abreu is next at $16 million). He brought a needed veteran presence to a young staff last season, posted a 1.99 ERA in 11 starts in the abbreviated regular season and started Game 2 of the wild-card series against the Athletics.
In that potential clincher for the Sox, the A’s tied the series with a 5-3 victory before winning it in Game 3. Keuchel allowed five runs (three earned) and six hits in 3„ innings and hasn’t got untracked since. After getting shelled for six runs (five earned) in one-plus innings in the Sox’ 17-13 win over the Cubs on Friday, Keuchel’s ERA stood at 5.00. It was the shortest start of his career.
A three-run homer by Patrick Wisdom three batters in was the 23rd allowed by Keuchel, already a career high.
“The home runs have been kind of my death wish this year,” Keuchel said. “I have to make better pitches.”
Keuchel said he studied tape, which was “enlightening.” His lack of two-seam fastball command down and away to righties has been his bugaboo “pretty much for the whole season.”
“One game it will be there, one game it won’t be there,” he said.
Especially of late. In 10 starts in July and August, Keuchel’s ERA is 6.80. Without the velocity and stuff the Sox’ other starters bring, Keuchel relies more on precise command. But when he gets ahead in counts, he often falls behind before the at-bat is over.
“When he makes a mistake, he’s getting punished, and sometimes you don’t get away with it,” manager Tony La Russa said.
But Keuchel isn’t giving in. -Veteran pitchers know themselves better than anyone, La Russa said, so there’s hope Keuchel can figure it out. But it’s not as if the Sox are hurting for starting pitching as they were a year ago. Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease rank in the top six among AL pitchers in FanGraphs wins above replacement, and Carlos Rodon would, too, with a few more innings pitched.
It’s hard to envision Keuchel cracking the rotation in the postseason, when no more than four starters are needed because of days off.
“That just speaks volumes to the advancement of Cease and Rodon being the guy that everybody expected him to be,” Keuchel said. “Giolito and Lynn have been themselves, and it’s just me kind of bringing up the rear. Of course, I think about it. It’s what everybody plays for. Once you get a taste of the postseason, that’s all you want to do from there on out.
“But letting myself get rolled up into that idea is the least of my worries right now. I’ve just got to make sure that I’m myself come Oct. 3, the last game of the year, and whatever happens happens.”