Tigers-White Sox Preview
Justin Verlander’s abbreviated season began with a prolonged rough stretch, but could end on a successful run.
The Detroit Tigers right-hander tries for a season-high third consecutive winning start Saturday night against the host Chicago White Sox.
After missing the first two months with a strained triceps, Verlander went 0-3 with a 5.57 ERA in his first seven starts before winning at Tampa Bay on July 29. Since July 24, however, Verlander has a 2.22 ERA in 13 starts.
”I can’t say I expected to come back in midseason form,” said Verlander (5-8, 3.39 ERA), who allowed a solo homer in six innings of Monday’s 7-4 victory at Texas. ”That’s kind of a naive way of looking at things. I had my ups and down the first couple of starts, then settled down and pitched the way I expected to.”
Verlander, who last won three straight starts since April 12-22 of last season, gave up three runs and struck out eight in seven innings of a 7-4 win over Chicago (75-85) on Sept. 23.
One week after Detroit’s front office announced manager Brad Ausmus would return in 2016, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Robin Ventura has done enough to remain in the dugout on the South Side despite a third consecutive losing season.
”If I didn’t feel, if we didn’t feel as an organization, that Robin had the ability to be a championship-caliber manager, he wouldn’t be here,” Hahn said. ”And it’s important at the end that we put ourselves in the best position possible going forward, and as we sit here today, we feel like we are in that position.”
Erik Johnson (3-1, 3.45) is doing all he can to find a place for himself in Chicago’s starting rotation next season. Despite allowing seven hits and walking four in 5 2-3 innings Sunday, he yielded two earned runs during a 6-1 loss at Yankee Stadium.
"It was another one of those days where runners are going to be on base. That’s how it’s going to be," the right-hander said. "You just have to grind ’em out and keep throwing up zeros as best you can."
Johnson gave up two runs and matched a career high with nine strikeouts in six innings of a 3-2 win at Detroit (73-86) on Sept. 21.
Miguel Cabrera is 1 for 6 with two strikeouts against Johnson, but could be in the lineup after sitting the last two contests. Hitting .334, Cabrera is on the verge of winning his fourth AL batting title in five years but is 3 for 21 in six games at Chicago this season.
Though Cabrera has another personal milestone in reach, it’s bittersweet amid the Tigers’ disappointing season. Detroit is in danger of finishing last in the AL Central after winning it the previous four years.
"It’s hard when you’re losing games," he told MLB’s official website.
Jose Abreu could be back in the White Sox lineup after he was rested in Friday’s 2-1 victory. A night earlier, he became the second player in major league history to record at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in his first two seasons.
Abreu has hit .121 with 15 strikeouts in his last nine games against Detroit, but is batting .444 with two home runs in 18 at-bats when facing Verlander.