Regardless of what happens to the White Sox over the next four games against Detroit, with the series beginning Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field, the South Siders still will have more than 90 games remaining on their 2014 schedule.
To call this four-game set a make or break get-together for either side certainly would be a bit premature. But with the American League Central crown still appearing to go through Detroit, it certainly could become a good barometer of where the White Sox stand.
"You're still in the first half and last year we didn't play them hardly at all until the second half," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of facing the Tigers. "To be able to see them and play them, everybody's chasing them. You always like to be able to play the team you're chasing because adding games or subtracting games is immediate."
Hector Noesi is scheduled to make his eighth start with the White Sox, looking for a fourth straight quality start. He has a 1-0 record with a 2.33 ERA over his last three trips to the mound, having fanned 14 in 19 1/3 innings and held opponents to a .203 average. Noesi snapped a 14-game losing streak in his last start on June 3 against the Dodgers.
Monday's game begins a stretch of two straight weeks against the AL Central for the Tigers without a day off. Asked whether division games carry more importance for them, Max Scherzer understood the math, but downplayed the impact.
"When you get down to it, yes, it's more important to win the division games, because that's your direct competition," Scherzer said. "But at the end of the day, Major League Baseball is so good, and the teams are so good here, in the American League there are so many quality teams, that really you have to play your best baseball with everybody. You can't afford to only win against your division and lose games out of your division. You have to play your best baseball every single day. You have to be relentless at trying to win these series."
Righty Rick Porcello will get the ball for the Tigers. He enjoyed Chicago's home stadium quite a bit in 2013, going 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA. This season, the former first-round pick has picked up a decision in each of his 11 starts, posting an 8-3 mark.
These two teams already have played six games, with Detroit winning four of them, including two victories for Scherzer, who pitches against Chris Sale in Thursday's series finale. The White Sox split four in Detroit and lost both games at U.S. Cellular Field.
White Sox: Ventura stands by his decision
With one night to think about it, Ventura still had no misgivings about leaving Sale in the game Saturday night to face Mike Trout with the bases loaded, nobody out and the White Sox leading by four runs in the eighth. Trout hit a 3-2 changeup, located low and away, for a game-tying grand slam to the rocks in left-center.
Ventura could have taken Sale out after seven scoreless innings and given the bullpen a fresh inning to work. He could have brought in Jake Petricka after the first two runners reached base and the shutout was gone or he could have even brought in Petricka to face Trout. But Ventura had no problems leaving in one of the game's best starting pitchers to face one of the game's best players.
"It's tough. You go in there last night and the way the eighth inning happened, if you're going to have anybody face that guy, I'd rather have Chris Sale face that guy," Ventura said. "That's the way it goes. They won that round and we have to come back ready to go."
There have been times where Ventura admits to second-guessing his own managerial decisions. Saturday night with Sale was not one of them.
"That's his game," Ventura said. "If it goes that way and you have somebody else in there you'd be kicking yourself doing the same thing. I have total confidence in him even the way that inning was going and he has earned the right to get his way out of it."
Tigers: Cabrera exits with tight left hamstring
Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera exited Sunday night's game against the Red Sox with a tight left hamstring.
After a two-out single in the sixth, trainer Kevin Rand came out to check on Cabrera and both returned to the dugout. Don Kelly came on to pinch-run. Cabrera didn't appear to be running full speed on a fourth-inning double, either, and he is considered day to day.
• Per Elias, Sale's .145 opponents average against is the lowest by an American League pitcher through his first eight starts of a season since 1980, when Oakland's Mike Norris held the opposition to a .140 mark.
• Detroit's Joba Chamberlain hadn't allowed a run in 12 consecutive outings and 18 of his last 19 prior to Sunday night's blown save against Boston, in which he allowed a three-run homer to David Ortiz. Closer Joe Nathan has surrendered at least two earned runs in four of his last five appearances.
• Tigers shortstop Eugenio Suarez, the club's No. 6 prospect according to MLB.com, went deep Saturday for his first Major League hit, then added two RBIs on two singles Sunday.