Tigers Aim To Rip Rivals To Shreds
by Robert Ferringo - 07/17/2006
Is it me, or has the opening week of baseball's second half already surpassed the first half in terms of drama? I didn't care about Bonds. My fantasy baseball team was done by mid-May. (Thanks Juan Pierre and Richie Sexson. Dicks.) I wasn't impressed by the Reds' run. And I couldn't even watch the Pony League-caliber ball played by both of the Western divisions.
But now The Boys of Summer are out in full force. And the first opportunity for anyone to make their mark in the second half of this season will take place this week in Detroit Rock City. The defending World Series champion White Sox travel to Comerica Park to take on the American League Central-leading Tigers in an intriguing three-game series.
The Motor City Kitties were actually the most surprising and refreshing story of the Spring. Their amazing run has been spearheaded by their fantastic pitching and clutch hitting. They have been the feel-good story of the season, but there are still scores of people in the baseball and betting worlds that are waiting for a collapse from a franchise that has barely had a pulse for over a decade.
Detroit will not only match-up with a division rival, the second-place team and their primary competition for the playoffs, but also the defending champs.
Detroit's pitching staff has been dominating thus far. They are tops in the Majors in ERA (3.54) and WHIP (1.25). Conversely, Chicago has been pummeling the competition with the top-scoring offense (5.85 runs per game) in the league. The White Sox went to Detroit in early April and swept the Tigers easily. The clubs have met six times in 2006, with Chicago holding a 5-1 advantage.
Even with a sweep, Chicago can't gain control of the division because they are currently 4.5 games back. But losing the series could send a ripple of panic through the organization. The White Sox are entering Detroit looking like they just came out of a bout on The Contender. They were swept out of the Bronx and a second series loss would leave them at least 5.5 games back. Another sweep would put them in the danger zone at 7.5 back.
Here's a look at the pitching match-ups for this week:
7:05 p.m., Tuesday, July 18: Garland (8-3) vs. Robertson (8-5)
Nate Robertson is the only lefty slated to start for either club. The White Sox are 20-17 against southpaws this season, hitting .276 as a team in 37 games. However, while Chicago is the top run-scoring team in the league they only manage 4.4 runs per outing against left-handed starters.
This will be Robertson's third start against the Sox this year, but his first outing of any sort since July 9. He is 0-1 against the Sox this year, having been torched for 11 hits and four earned runs in 13.1 innings. The Tigers are just 3-5 in Robertson's last eight appearances and 1-3 in his last four. His last five starts have all gone Under.
Jon Garland has been straight dealing in his last six games. He's on a 4-0 run and has surrendered more than two runs just one time. Garland is 1-1 against the Tigers this season. He got hammered in Comerica back in April, yielding seven runs on 13 hits in five innings, but he was awarded the win.
7:05 p.m., Wednesday, July 19: Vasquez (9-4) vs. Bonderman (9-4)
Amidst swirling trade rumors, Javier Vasquez will take the hill in the pivot game of this three-game set. Chicago General Manager Ken Williams reportedly has told other GMs that Vasquez and Freddy Garcia are available as the trade deadline grows near, to the dismay of the two veteran starters.
Vasquez hasn't been doing much to improve his value lately. He has a 5.89 ERA in his last 10 starts and has given up more than 10 hits in four of his last eight outings. Vasquez hasn't pitched seven or more innings since mid-May, and faces an underrated Detroit lineup that is seventh in MLB in runs per game (5.25).
Bonderman has been overpowering in his last eight starts. He has ceded more then two runs only one time during that span, while notching 61 strikeouts to just 16 walks. He tossed seven OK innings (four runs on six hits) against Chicago earlier in the year.
1:05 p.m., Thursday, July 20: Contreras (9-1) vs. Rogers (11-3)
The White Sox have been the second-best team in the Majors in day games (23-12). Detroit hasn't been bad either, as their 21 wins are tied for second in the American League during the sunlight.
But the White Sox have the advantage of having their ace manning the bump on Getaway Day. Contreras is 2-0 against Detroit this season, relinquishing just 13 hits in 15 innings. He started a day game against the Tigers in April and tossed eight innings of six-hit ball.
However, while Contreras has been stellar this season, his ERA has is 4.76 over his last ten starts, and that has bumped his season ERA nearly two full runs. The White Sox have also gone Over in each of his last six starts.
Kenny Rogers, fresh off his All-Star start, was just announced as a starter Monday night. He's won seven straight, and has gone over in his last five times on the bump.
Robert's Prodigy Pick: Bet the Under for the first game, and then Over for the next two. Also, if Chicago is favored in the first game, bet them for all three in the series. If they're dogs, bet Chicago in Games 1 and 3 and Detroit in Game 2.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his Insider Page here.