Was the American League Central race decided over the weekend? For oddsmakers, it sure seemed to be. The Chicago White Sox have led the division most of the season and were the favorites on Sportsbook.ag to win the Central entering Friday’s series opener in Detroit. But after suffering their second straight sweep at Comerica Park, the Sox and Tigers are now tied for the division lead entering Monday’s action and Detroit is now the -160 favorite on the site, with Chicago at +120.
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It’s time to be concerned if you are Chicago backer about ace Chris Sale. After lasting a season-low four innings in a loss Tuesday in Baltimore, Sale was beaten Sunday night in a duel with Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Sale gave up two homers in the loss and has now surrendered at least one home run in his last eight starts and 12 total. It’s the first time all season that the former reliever has lost back-to-back starts. Sale threw a combined 94 big-league innings entering this season and is now at 163.0. The Sox have given him extra rest between starts on several occasions this season and had him twice miss starts to allow for extra recuperation. But they may not have that luxury this late in the season. Sale is 0-3 vs. Detroit in 2012 and 15-3 vs. everyone else. Verlander, meanwhile, is 12-1 vs. the White Sox since 2008.
There is little doubt that Detroit is the better team head-to-head as the Tigers hold a 10-4 season series led over the Pale Hose, with the teams playing their final series vs. one another starting Sept. 10 in Chicago. The schedule sets up better for Detroit after that series as the only team with a winning record that the Tigers face is Oakland, and that’s in Motown. The Sox, meanwhile, play 12 of their final 19 games on the road and have to face both the Angels (road) and Rays (home).
Thus, it’s probably imperative that Chicago has a successful 10-game homestand that begins today vs. Minnesota and concludes with that Tigers visit. Unfortunately, the Sox aren’t likely to have DH and MLB home-run leader Adam Dunn (he was my pick at the all-star break to win the HR crown) for at least a few more games. Dunn strained an oblique on a check swing on Wednesday and missed the final two games of the Tigers series. Those types of injuries tend to linger.
Switching leagues, most pundits handed the National League West to the L.A. Dodgers once they acquired Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez from Boston, but the San Francisco Giants actually have extended their division lead since the big trade.
On the bright side, Gonzalez n hit a walk-off, two-run double in the ninth inning to give the Dodgers a big 5-4 win over Arizona on Sunday. And Beckett beat the Snakes on Saturday after an “iffy” first start with L.A. But the Dodgers may have lost closer Kenley Jansen for the season. He is taking a blood-thinner to deal with a heart condition. Jansen started using the medication after he was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat early last week (he missed a month last year with a heart problem). The medication prevents clots and strokes but can also cause severe bleeding. He could bleed to death if struck by a baseball, so he not only can’t play he can’t even sit in the dugout while taking it. Jansen will see a heart specialist on Tuesday who will tell him whether he has to keep taking the medication or not. According to the L.A. Times, if Jansen (25 saves, 2.54 ERA) stops using the medication, he can pitch as early as Sept. 7. If not, he will not be able to compete for four weeks. That’s the rest of the regular season.
In addition, starter Chad Billingsley went on the disabled list Saturday with inflammation in his elbow, his second stint on the DL for that injury this season. His season is probably over and he might need Tommy John Surgery that could cost him all of 2013. Billingsley is 10-9 with a 3.55 ERA this season. That L.A. rotation is a big question mark outside of Clayton Kershaw right now. Lefty Chris Capuano avoided the loss Sunday -- thanks to Gonzalez -- but is now 2-8 since starting the season 9-2. Since the all-star break, Capuano’s ERA is almost 5.00.
The Dodgers enter the week 4.5 games behind the Giants, and the two teams start a three-game series at AT&T Park on Friday at AT&T Park (Beckett scheduled to start the opener).That might have to be my MLB weekend series preview here at Doc’s. San Francisco is a -2500 favorite on Sportsbook.ag to win the West, with L.A. at +600.
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