The Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox start the first of their two remaining head-to-head series Friday, after each spent the last week kinda killing the buzz of the whole affair.
Not killing the buzz for us, obviously. You the reader--who is either a hyper-partisan Sox fan or at least reading understanding that the target audience is hyper-partisan Sox fans--do not especially care how ugly this race gets, so long as the White Sox emerge victorious.
For example! The Sox spent the early part of the week losing three out of four to the Orioles, and while doing so made Baltimore's greatest weakness--starting pitching--look viable. But in doing so, they gained a half game on the Tigers, who had tremendous trouble scoring against Bruce Chen and Jeremy Guthrie (and who are we to pass judgment for something like that?)
So, it was a success!
Now the White Sox enter this late, second-to-last opportunity to make a big swing in the standings incapable of finishing the weekend out of 1st place. Which is not to say leaving Detroit tied wouldn't be a bummer, but that the potential for disaster is limited.
The pitching matchups are Jake Peavy vs. Doug Fister, Francisco Liriano vs. Max Scherzer (showdown of enigmas!), and the Chris Sale vs. Justin Verlander matchup that some people think will be the game of the weekend. In general, the Sox have whatever advantage comes with resting their starters, with two exceptions.
- Chris Sale pitched Tuesday, but only threw 75 pitches in four innings. His velocity wasn't top-notch, but Don Cooper dismissed any notions that Sale would be rested in typical brusque Don Cooper-fashion.
- Doug Fister of the Tigers is certainly rested, but the question is if he's healthy. He's making his first start since August 19th, where he struggled with a groin injury and was shelled by the Orioles. To the ire of many, he felt a pinch in pre-game warm-ups that day and pitched anyway.
- Jake Peavy's not hurt per say, but his eye infection from earlier this week will force him to wear glasses that you wouldn't expect someone whose nickname is 'Bubba' to wear.
The Sox went through a bit of a roster shuffle Thursday, and well, bullet points worked so well the first time...
- Hector Gimenez was brought up to serve as the back-up catcher while Tyler Flowers goes on paternity leave (congrats, Tyler!). Giminez had a hit in his only at-bat Thursday, but is genrally not here for his bat-swinging abilities, he's here because Josh Phegley couldn't be counted on to defend the position. A.J. Pierzynski is a good bet to start all of the games while Flowers is gone (likely three). A.J.'s hitless since the Yankees series.
- Dylan Axelrod was sent down to Birmingham after his start with every intention of being recalled as soon as possible, which is September 3rd.
- In his place Jose Lopez was called up to...be better than Rey Olmedo? I wasn't exactly sure what the immediate purpose of calling up the infielder who has spent the last three years proving himself to be washed-up, so naturally he stepped in Thursday, gave Youkilis' "barking knee" a day off, and went 2-for-4 with a double. Lopez was apparently a 2006 All-Star. My word.
- RHP Gregory Infante was released to make room for all of these moves. Since he's been too bad to get a looksie even in this year of the revolving bullpen door, it's unlikely there will be pangs of regret over this move.
Both the Tigers and White Sox were so miserable this week, it's hard to declare that either squad has more of a reason to believe. It's baseball, and everyone does about faces all the time, but there's no real positive note besides perhaps the White Sox scoring two runs and bringing the tying run to the plate Thursday.
The Tigers hard their hearts ripped out with Delmon Young missing a go-ahead home run by inches on Tuesday, and Miguel Cabrera failing to run out a double play to end the game Thursday. On MLB Network, Tigers catcher Gerald Laird had some threatening words about what would happen if such play continued ("we could follow this up real quick"), while Paul Konerko stayed true to the mantra of staying the same every day:
"It's just one game and go out and play as hard as we can and move on. That's why we're in first place, because we've played like that all year. Let's not abandon that."
Filed under: Game Preview
Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, Baltimore Orioles, baseball, bruce chen, Chris Sale, Detroit Tigers, Don Cooper, Doug Fister, dylan axelrod, Francisco Liriano, Gregory Infante, hector gimenez, Jake Peavy, jeremy guthrie, Jose Lopez, Justin Verlander, kevin youkilis, Max Scherzer, Paul Konerko, rey olmedo, Tyler Flowers, White Sox