White Sox-Tigers Preview
However, after taking the opener of the three-game set and with Max Scherzer taking the mound Saturday, the host Tigers have to be feeling good about where the momentum could be swinging.
They might like their chances even more after learning shortly before the game that Adam Dunn, the major league leader with 38 homers, won't be in the White Sox lineup due to a strained oblique. Manager Robin Ventura said he's sitting Dunn as a precaution but may use him as a pinch hitter.
Detroit moved within two games of first-place Chicago following a 7-4 win Friday. Delmon Young hit a tiebreaking, three-run double in the seventh inning for the Tigers, while the White Sox (72-59) went 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
"We still have a ways to go, but obviously this is an important series without question," manager Jim Leyland said. "Is it the end of the world one way or the other? No."
Detroit (70-61), which had totaled one run in the final two losses of a three-game sweep at Kansas City this week, finished with 11 hits Friday - six for extra bases. Miguel Cabrera went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer.
Cabrera is batting .447 with four homers in the last nine games of the season series - seven of them victories for Detroit, which has won 16 of its last 19 home games versus the White Sox.
The Tigers now will give the ball to Scherzer (14-6, 4.13 ERA), who looks to win his fifth straight start.
The hard-throwing right-hander, who is also 6-1 with a 2.75 ERA over his last eight outings, allowed one run and four hits over seven innings of Sunday's 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. He struck out nine, becoming the first Tigers pitcher since at least 1918 to have at least eight strikeouts in eight straight starts.
He's also the franchise's first pitcher with nine strikeouts or more in 11 starts in a season since Mickey Lolich had 15 in 1971.
"Scherzer has a tremendous arm, no question about it,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's got some deception with that delivery."
Scherzer is 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA in six career home starts against the White Sox, but 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in three overall outings against them this year - two of which Detroit has lost.
The White Sox have dropped four of five on their road trip, but it's not yet time to panic.
"We've still got a two-game lead, they've still got to catch us,'' third baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "The key right now is that we don't want to start pressing."
Paul Konerko, who drove in two runs Friday despite finishing 0 for 4, is 2 for 19 on the road trip. However, he is 4 for 8 against Scherzer this year with two homers.
Francisco Liriano (5-10, 5.06) will try to give Chicago some more breathing room in the division, but he had some control issues in a 4-3 loss to Baltimore on Monday, allowing two runs, six hits and four walks in five-plus innings though he didn't get the decision.
Liriano is 5-6 with a 4.92 ERA in 15 starts against Detroit. He's faced the Tigers twice as a reliever this year, most recently allowing four runs and five hits over 2 2-3 innings May 25.
Cabrera is 8 for 24 with two homers and three doubles off Liriano.