The White Sox conclude their 10-game homestand with four games with the Detroit Tigers starting Monday night at US Cellular Field. This is the final meeting of the year between the two teams battling for the Central Division Title.
The White Sox come in having lost 2 of 3 to the Royals…again. The Tigers come after being swept in Los Angeles by the Angels. Neither team has played that well since they met in Detroit a little over a week ago but the White Sox have been able to win a couple more games and as a result enter the series with a two game lead in the division.
The Sox have a chance to put some distance between them and Detroit with a series win, while the Tigers will once again be trying to get back into first place.
Game one on Monday will be Jose Quintana (5-4, 3.68 ERA) against Rick Porcello (9-11, 4.58 ERA).
Despite the fact that the rest of the baseball world doesn’t seem to have a problem hitting against Porcello, the White Sox struggle against him. Porcello has made 3 starts against the Sox this year and is 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA, a 0.727 WHIP and 13 K’s against just 2 BB’s. The White Sox are hitting .182 against Porcello on the season. In fact the White Sox have just 14 hits in 22 innings against a guy who is leading the American League in hits allowed (202 hits in 157.1 innings). With numbers like that you might expect that Porcello was a part of the Royals pitching rotation.
It has been a tough second half of the season for the 23-year-old right hander as he has lost his last 5 starts dating back to August 12th. Over those five starts opponents have hit .325 off Porcello and he has allowed 46 baserunners in 28.2 innings pitched. The Sox should be able to get to him and score some runs based on his recent outings. Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham are both hitting .385 lifetime with a homer against Porcello, while Alex Rios (.160), Alexei Ramirez (.179), and AJ Pierzynski (.211) have struggled against him.
For the Sox Jose Quintana will be looking to get back on track after losing consecutive starts for the first time this year. In both of those games Quintana struggled with his command and was batted around pretty good. There has been talk that he has hit the wall, as he is now well over his previous career high in innings pitched, but Quintana says he feels fine and that the issue is more mechanical than physical.
Whatever the reason the Sox need Quintana to pitch like he was when he was first put into the rotation, when he went more than 100 batters without issuing a walk. This will be the Tigers first look at Jose, so maybe he will be able to keep them off balance at least a couple times through the order. The Sox need him to work much deeper into the game than his last two starts when he went 3.2 innings and 1.1 innings.
Game two will have Jake Peavy (10-10, 3.22 ERA) and Doug Fister (8-8, 3.54 ERA) toeing the rubber.
Fister made his first start against the Sox as a member of the Tigers during their last series at Comerica Park. In that start Fister went 5 innings giving up 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits, walked 4 and struck out two.
He wasn’t very sharp in that start at all but bounced back his next time out against Cleveland, getting the win and giving up just 1 run over 8 innings, with 1 BB and 6 K’s. It’s been an up and down year for Fister, who has battled some injuries, and just hasn’t been able to find the consistency that he had a year ago when he helped the Tigers reach the ALCS. Alex Rios (.636) and Adam Dunn (.750) have had the most success against Fister while AJ (.071) and Youk (.167) have struggled against the 6’8’’ righty.
Peavy’s story is similar to that of Fister’s over the last couple outings. He was the Sox starter in the game that Fister pitched in Detroit and like Fister, Peavy was not very sharp. His final line showed him giving up 6 runs in 6 innings and taking the loss in that game. Like Fister though, Peavy bounced back his next time out giving up 1 run in 6 innings and getting the win against the Twins.
For the season Peavy is 1-2 against Detroit with a 5.79 ERA in 5 starts with his lone win coming in the Sox home opener. These are the games that Peavy likes to pitch in and this is the reason Kenny Williams brought him in, to be an ace. Aces come up big in big spots and there has been no bigger spot this season that this series. Sox fans will see what Peavy is made of.
Game three will matchup Francisco Liriano (5-11, 5.25 ERA) and Max Scherzer (15-6, 3.85 ERA).
Scherzer has been phenomenal for the Tigers down the stretch. After an up and down first half of the season, Scherzer has gone 8-1 with a 2.58 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 80.1 innings since the start of July. That has some people wondering if he deserves to have his name in the Cy Young talk.
Scherzer has pitched at least 7 innings in each of his last 5 starts and has struck out 8 or more batters in each of his last 10 starts. He has handled the Sox pretty well this year too going 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA with a 1.040 WHIP and 32 K’s in four starts. Scherzer, historically, has struggled to put together a string of really good starts and usually has a “blow up game” mixed in with his solid appearances. That has not been the case lately as he has gone six straight starts allowing 2 runs or less.
The White Sox players with the most success against Max are AJ Pierzynski (.345, HR), Adam Dunn (.286, 2 HRs) and Alejandro De Aza (.286, HR). Current White Sox batters are hitting a combined .241 with 7 homers and 58 strikeouts against Scherzer in 216 at bats.
Francisco Liriano is another Sox starter in need of a good outing. After getting off to a pretty good start with the Sox, Liriano has fallen off. His last three outings he is 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA and has walked 15 batters in 14 innings. His control has been the biggest problem and it keeps him from working deep into games, even if he isn’t walking people he still throws a lot of pitches.
The Sox haven’t been able to correct whatever issue he has and get him to throw more strikes. As you would expect batters are hitting .287 off Liriano when he is behind in the count vs. .186 when he is ahead. If he could figure out a way to get ahead of hitters he would be a much more affective pitcher.
The finaleof the series will be a rematch of the Sunday night finale in the previous series when Chris Sale (16-6, 2.88 ERA) takes on Justin Verlander ( 13-8, 2.91 ERA).
Verlander has struggled in two of his last three outings, the exception being his 8 innings, 1 run, and 11 strikeout performance against the Sox on Sunday night. In the other two starts Verlander has allowed 14 runs in 11.2 innings against the Royals and Angels. His last start against LA was the first start all season where he didn’t throw at least 100 pitches. It’s possible that the heavy workload of the last two seasons is starting to get to him, but I wouldn’t bet on it. It is unusual though for him to have two poor outings so close together.
Verlander is still one of the top pitchers in the game though, and he has gotten it done against the Sox this year going 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA and a WHIP of 0.750. The one factor that might work in their favor is that Verlander’s career ERA at US Cellular Field is 4.27 and he has served up 15 homers in 13 games at the Cell.
Chris Sale will get another chance to go up against the reigning Cy Young winner and state his case that he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. In their matchup a week ago Sale made one “mistake” and Delmon Young scooped it off the ground and sent it over the left field wall for a three run homer that was the difference in the game. Sale bounced back against KC, allowing just one run on 5 hits over 6 innings and getting the win.
It was also his first start since July 15th that he did not allow a home run. Sale will also benefit from pitching at home where he is 9-2 with a 1.72 ERA and an opponent’s batting average of .191 as opposed to .257 on the road.
Keys to the Series
Sweet Home Chicago: The White Sox are 41-29 at home this year including 22-8 in their last 30 games at the Cell. They have won 8 of their last 10 series at home with both losses coming to…you guessed it, the Royals. The Tigers on the other hand are 30-38 on the road and have lost 15 of their last 21 games away from home including 6 straight. They have also lost 6 of the last 7 series in the road, the lone win coming in Minnesota. The Sox must take care of business at home in this series against a team that has struggled mightily on the road.
Both clubs’ struggling bats: This is a two part key, and the parts are somewhat unrelated. I’ll start with the Sox. Here are the Sox hitting statistics against the Tigers this year through 14 games:
- Batting Average: .227
- On Base Percentage: .279
- Slugging Percentage: .386
- OPS: .666 (bad Omen for sure)
- Runs: 49 (3.5 per game)
- HR: 17
- Strikeouts: 123 (8.79 per game)
- Walks: 28
- K/BB ratio: 4.39
Clearly the White Sox have had massive issues hitting against the Tigers this season. The strikeouts are the obvious issue. The Sox are hitting .272 on balls put in play, not great but almost 50 points higher than their regular average against the Tigers. Cut down on the swings and misses and put a few more balls in play against one of the worst defenses in the league and they just might figure out a way to score some runs.
Now for the Tigers part. Since the Tigers swept the White Sox they have scored 16 runs in 6 games. That is an average of 2.67 runs per game. That isn’t going to get it done. Looking even more we see that in the 5 games the Tigers lost in that 6 game stretch they scored a total of 9 runs, which works out to 1.8 runs per game. Other than the 7 runs they scored against the Indians in their lone win the Tigers have not scored more than 2 runs in a game over that stretch. In fact in that win against the Tribe the Tigers scored 5 runs in the bottom of the 8th to blow the game open and avoid the sweep. Take away that inning and the Tigers bats have really struggled lately.
So, basically the Sox can’t hit against the Tigers and the Tigers can’t hit against anyone right now. Whichever team figures out their problem will be the one that wins the series.
Please Delmon don’t hurt ‘em: Delmon Young has established himself as a Sox killer. It goes all the way back to his Major League debut as a member of the Devil Rays when he went 2-for-3 with a home run and 2 RBI. He hasn’t stopped killing the Sox since. In his career against the Sox Young has hit .339 (his highest average against an AL team) with 13 home runs (2nd most against any team) and 51 RBI (also 2nd most) and an OPS of .955.
If you want some context for those numbers check this out: Young has the same amount of career RBI against the White Sox as his teammate Miguel Cabrera. However, Cabrera has played in 14 more games against the Sox in his career. Basically the Sox are better off facing Miguel Cabrera, perennial MVP and Triple Crown candidate, than Delmon Young with runners on base in a big spot. Young had the two biggest hits in the last series, the bases clearing double in the 7th inning of game one, and the 3-run homer off Sale in game three. The Sox cannot let Young beat them again.
Trying to predict what either of these two teams will do is becoming next to impossible. Neither of them seems to want to take control of this division. Maybe we are just destined to go to the last series of the year with these two teams still close. The bottom line is that the Sox have played well against every team not named the Tigers and the Royals. For the Tigers, if you take away their 10-4 record against the Sox they are 63-62. But that is exactly the point, if you don’t play well against your closest competition you are asking for trouble.
This is a four game series and the most likely outcome of any four games series is a split. Given the way the Sox and Tigers play against everyone else I think a split is a pretty good outcome for the South Siders.
Posted by GSB! Contributor, Matt Hoeppner.