CHICAGO — The Detroit Tigers will look to bolster their playoff chances when they visit the Chicago White Sox on Monday afternoon to open a three-game series.
With 26 games to go in the regular season, Detroit (74-62) is tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild-card playoff berth in the American League. The Tigers are two games behind the Boston Red Sox for the first wild-card spot, and they trail the Cleveland Indians by 5 1/2 games in the American League Central.
“I think we understand that if we keep playing inconsistent, we're not going anywhere; we're going to go home,” first baseman Miguel Cabrera told the Detroit News after the Tigers won two of three games this weekend against the Kansas City Royals. “We don't want to go home. We're going to keep fighting to the end and try to make something happen. This is fun.
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“To play for something, this is fun. Trying to play for a spot in the playoffs, it's exciting. You need to come every day and play hard.”
That leaves the White Sox (65-71) to play the role of spoiler as the Tigers come to town. Chicago opens a 10-game homestand after a disappointing road trip in which they went 2-5.
The White Sox's road trip started against the familiar Tigers, who swept them in three games. Chicago is 5-11 against Detroit this season and has been outscored 92-68 in those contests.
Since May 23, the White Sox have posted a 13-31 record against AL Central rivals.
“You have to figure out a way to shore that up and get some consistency,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura told the Chicago Tribune. “We can go from one night scoring seven to three games in a row scoring one.”
Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander (14-7, 3.30 ERA) likely will not make life easy for the White Sox. Verlander has recorded 10 consecutive quality starts and is second in the AL with 198 strikeouts.
During his career, Verlander is 19-13 with a 3.87 ERA against Chicago. He is 6-8 with a 4.34 ERA in 18 starts at U.S. Cellular Field.
White Sox left-hander Chris Sale (15-7, 3.10 ERA) will try to outshine Verlander in a battle of aces. Sale limited the Tigers to two runs in eight innings in his last meeting Aug. 31 but did not factor in the decision.
Chicago's lanky southpaw has gone 8-7 with a 3.09 ERA in 28 career appearances (18 starts) against the Tigers. He is 5-3 with a 2.97 ERA in 16 games (nine starts) at home against Detroit.
Sale and his teammates could benefit from a return to their home ballpark. The White Sox are 35-29 at home this season compared with 30-42 on the road. Against the Tigers, the White Sox are 4-3 at home and 1-8 on the road.
Tigers catcher James McCann is relishing the high stakes of September baseball.
“It's what you dream about in the offseason and spring training,” McCann told the Detroit News. “Getting to this point in the season and getting to play for something.”