Detroit -- The winner of the American League Central may not be determined until the final day of the season, but after playing below their potential for five months the Detroit Tigers are beginning to once again establish themselves as the favorites to win the division.
Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox, who had shown no signs of caving under pressure to this point of the season, are suddenly suspect after losing three straight in Detroit this weekend.
A horrendous 1-6 road trip ended with a second straight evening of lackluster offense for the suddenly reeling Sox. Dominant starts by Detroit’s Max Scherzer on Saturday night and Justin Verlander on Sunday left the resilient Chicago team in a regrouping mode.
“We have 29 games left to try and get it done,” Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “It has now become a sprint, and we will see who can play best the last 29 games.”
LHP Chris Sale has now lost three of his past four starts for the Sox and has become vulnerable to the long ball, including 12 in his past eight starts.) Delmon Young’s three-run homer in the sixth inning sealed Sale’s fate in Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Tigers.
“I’m averaging two home runs a game,” Sale said. “Balls left and right are leaving the yard [on me]. That can’t happen, especially this time of year, when games really count and you need wins.”
Sale will get an extra day of rest before his next start thanks to an off day for the team on Thursday. The question remains whether the management team will ask Sale to take a few more days off after that.
Although Sale pitched well, his fast ball was topping out at 91 mph, down about four ticks from his peak velocity in midseason. Sale is in unchartered waters, having thrown 163 innings in his first season as a starter in the major leagues.
The White Sox can take some solitude in knowing they are going back home to start a 10-game homestand. Chicago has won six straight at U.S Cellular field.
“We just have to go out and play,” Pierzynski said. “Sometimes you have to kind of hit the bottom before you get going again.
“We could be in worse places,” he said. “We are tied for the division lead, and we still have a month to go. A lot of teams would kill to be in the position we are in. Now we have to take the bull by the horns and get it done.”