It’s the biggest series of the year in the American League Central beginning Friday night at Comerica Park when the Detroit Tigers host the Chicago White Sox. As well as Oakland, Baltimore and Tampa Bay are playing – the first two being huge surprises – it’s quite possible that the runner-up in the Central between Detroit and Chicago misses the playoffs entirely.
Both teams have their rotations set up perfectly for this series. In fact, Tigers manager Jim Leyland wanted to make sure he had ace Justin Verlander available to pitch in the ESPN nationally televised series finale on Sunday night. The Tigers were off Monday and Leyland could have theoretically given Verlander an extra day of rest on Tuesday and kept the rest of the rotation in their normal spots (if Leyland had done that, Verlander would have been unavailable Sunday). But Leyland started Verlander on his normal rest Tuesday, and it backfired in a big way as the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP was torched by the Royals.
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The White Sox have led the division the majority of the season – they last lost the lead when they last visited Detroit from July 20-22. The Tigers swept that by a combined mark of 17-7 to take a 1.5-game lead in the Central that Detroit quickly coughed back up. As the White Sox dropped three of four in Baltimore to start this week, the Tigers blew a big chance to close the gap with back-to-back one-run losses in Kansas City heading into Thursday night’s series finale. Chicago is -125 on Sportsbook.ag to win the division with Detroit at -110.
This will be Chicago’s final trip to Detroit this season, although the Tigers visit U.S. Cellular Field Sept. 10-13. The White Sox have not been good on the road of late, having lost six of their past seven away from the Windy City. They are 1-5 overall in Detroit in 2012, never scoring more than four runs in a game (and doing that only twice) – the season series is 7-4 in favor of the Tigers. Detroit had a 10-game winning streak at home ended earlier this month is just 6-5 there since (including that loss).
All three games in this series are at night, which bodes well for the Pale Hose. Chicago is 45-40 under the lights while Detroit is 36-39 (entering Thursday). The Tigers have by far the most wins in the American League in day games with 33. Also boding well for Chicago is that Detroit doesn’t have a lefty in its rotation. The Sox are 14 games over. 500 vs. right-handed starters but 20-20 against southpaws.
White Sox at Tigers Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday: White Sox RHP Jake Peavy (9-9, 3.09) vs. Tigers RHP Doug Fister (7-8, 3.67) – Peavy was originally scheduled to start Wednesday but was moved back to start this series opener when Tigers-killer Gavin Floyd was placed on the DL earlier this week. Peavy is 21-10 with a 3.17 ERA in 39 career starts with six or more days of rest. He is 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA in four starts vs. Detroit this season. Fister, meanwhile, returns from missing a start with a groin injury. Fister hasn’t faced the White Sox since arriving from Seattle before last season’s trade deadline – the White Sox also are the only AL team he has never beaten, including his Mariners days. Look for a potential big game from Chicago’s Alex Rios as he is 7-for-8 in his career vs. Fister.
Saturday: White Sox LHP Francisco Liriano (5-10, 5.06) vs. Tigers RHP Max Scherzer (14-6, 4.13) – Liriano has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his six starts with the White Sox. He hasn’t faced Detroit since coming over from the Twins. Tigers star Miguel Cabrera likes facing Liriano, with a .333 average with two homers and six RBI in his past 24 at-bats vs. the lefty. Scherzer has won four straight starts, allowing four total earned runs in 27 innings with 35 strikeouts. He is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in three starts vs. Chicago in 2012.
Sunday: White Sox LHP Chris Sale (15-5, 2.81) vs. Tigers RHP Justin Verlander (12-7, 2.80): It’s one of the marquee pitching matchups of the season in the AL between Cy Young candidates. However, both come off terrible outings. Sale allowed four runs in a season-low four innings in losing at Baltimore. There was talk of skipping another start for the former reliever but that has been tabled for now. He is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA vs. Detroit this season and his road ERA is more than two points higher than at home. In one of the most shocking outings of the season, Verlander allowed eight earned runs and 12 hits, both season-highs, in 5.2 innings vs. Kansas City. The eight runs tied a career high and the 12 hits were the most he has allowed in six years. He has faced the White Sox once, beating them July 20 by allowing two runs and four hits in eight innings.
White Sox at Tigers Betting Odds and Trends
For the series, I project Detroit at approximately -165 with Chicago around +145. In Game 1, the Tigers are -130 favorites on BetOnline with the total at 8.5. The White Sox are 23-40-3 “over/under” on the road and Detroit is 28-34-3 at home.
The White Sox are 4-12 in their past 16 road games vs. teams with a winning record. They are 5-1 in their past six games vs. right-handed starters. Chicago is 1-7 in Peavy’s past eight road starts. The Tigers are 10-2 in their past 12 home games vs. a right-handed starter. Detroit has won 14 of past 20 at home vs. teams with a winning record. Tigers are 1-5 in Fister’s past six series openers. The under is 6-0 in Detroit’s past six home games. The under has hit in 10 of White Sox’s past 15 road games vs. teams with a winning home record. Chicago has won just three of its past 18 trips to Detroit. The under is 4-0-1 in the past five at Comerica Park.
White Sox at Tigers Betting Predictions
I’m trying to think of a reason to recommend the underdog Sox here, but I simply can’t. I suppose it’s an advantage that they had an afternoon game Thursday before traveling, while Detroit had to play Thursday night before flying back. But Chicago just hasn’t been a good road team of late, rarely wins in Detroit and both Peavy and Sale have struggled away from U.S. Cellular. I think Chicago would be happy winning one of the three games and that’s probably what happens. So Detroit in the series and Game 1 – I’d probably go under in all three games.
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