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Tigers’ Showdown: Weekend Preview

The first legitimately crucial week of the Detroit Tigers’ season is upon us. Three home games against the White Sox, followed by three games at Cleveland. Six games that could give Detroit a big division lead, a deeper hole to climb out of, and everything in between.

Every day is a new day in baseball, and one streak can decide a season. Daily games, and long stretches against rivals can turn a race around quickly, while also giving the chance to erase a lot of frustration. Even with all of the Tigers’ struggles in 2012, the team is just one/two and a half out. With things starting to turn around, who knows where the Tigers might be in a short time.

As it stands today, the Tigers are in second place within the AL Central, 1.5 games back of Chicago/2.5 games back of Chicago. Cleveland is 2.5/4.0 games back of Chicago, and 1.5 games behind Detroit.

Central

W

L

GB

Chicago White Sox

50

42

Detroit Tigers

49

44

1.5

Cleveland Indians

47

45

3.0

Kansas City Royals

39

52

10.5

Minnesota Twins

38

54

12.0

For the potential AL Wild Card spots (yes, spots. MLB added an additional wild-card to the playoff structure this year, with a play-in game of the two teams to get into the Division Series), the Tigers hold the second spot. Detroit is a half-game up on Baltimore, one game up on Oakland and Tampa Bay, and 1.5 games up on Boston and Cleveland.

The Chicago White Sox are the first task for the Tigers.

Chicago comes into Comerica Park on somewhat of a losing streak, going just 3-4 against Kansas City and Boston after a sweep of the Texas Rangers and two wins against the Toronto Blue Jays. The White Sox’ biggest names have all haunted Detroit at times, albeit from many different locations. Paul Konerko, Chicago’s long-time first-baseman, is having another excellent year with a .322 average, 14 home runs, 44 RBI’s, and an OPS of .914. Adam Dunn, in his second year for Chicago, is leading the team with 28 home runs, enough to get him in the All-Star Game. Kevin Youkilis, formerly of the Boston Red Sox, has had excellent numbers since his trade, with 4 home runs and 18 RBI’s in just 19 games. Chicago is 12-8 since Youkilis’ arrival.

In the standings, a series sweep for the Tigers would also give Detroit the AL Central lead, for the first time since May 1st. The Tigers are 1.5 games back, and three wins over the weekend would flip that, and put Detroit 1.5 games ahead of Chicago. With a sweep as the worst-case scenario, new manager Robin Ventura structured his rotation to prevent a sweep while possibly conceding a game or two.

On Friday night, Justin Verlander will start for the Tigers, in his first game in Detroit since before the All-Star break. Verlander is 2-1 in his last three starts, but came out strong against Baltimore last Sunday. JV is 10-5 on the year, with a 2.43 ERA.  If Verlander is on his game, it’s very hard to beat the Tigers, and this game might be played a little weaker than usual by Chicago. Pitching for Chicago will be Jake Peavy, a former ace who has had some injury problems in recent years. Peavy is 7-6 on the year with a 3.12 ERA.

On Saturday night, Chicago will finally start their ace, Chris Sale. Sale is 11-2 on the year, with a 2.11 ERA, with only two starts in the month of July. His first was on July 3rd against Kansas City, was inactive for a week until the All-Star Game, pitched one inning there, and then sat for four days before his start on Sunday. Originally scheduled to pitch against Verlander, Sale was moved back another day, to pitch on five days of rest against Rick Porcello. Sale has been moved around a lot this season, with varying amounts of rest and use, even a six-day rest before an inning of relief work out of the bullpen. This long rest period was to supposedly keep Sale from facing Verlander, with the idea that if the first two games are split, Chicago still leaves with the division lead.

On Sunday afternoon, the Tigers will send Jacob Turner out for his second start since his call-up, going against the White Sox’ Philip Humber. Turner had a brutal outing in his last start, with a 7-run, 2-inning start against the Angels on Tuesday. However, Turner has had good starts in Toledo, with a 4-2 record down there. Philip Humber has been nothing to really write home about, with a 3-3 record and 6.17 ERA in his last ten starts. This will be a game that comes down to offense, with two potentially weak pitchers.

A likely lineup for the Tigers is below. Look for Ryan Raburn to play on Friday and Saturday. Raburn is 1-for-2 with a home run against Peavy, while Delmon Young and Don Kelly are a combined 0-for-5 against him. Raburn is also the only Tiger with a home run off Sale, and the only Tiger to hit over .300 against him, with a 1-for-3 statline. With the second base spot as a complete platoon effort this year, Raburn will probably go there.

1st Austin Jackson CF
2nd Quintin Berry LF
3rd Miguel Cabrera 3B
4th Prince Fielder 1B
5th Delmon Young DH
6th Brennan Boesch RF
7th Jhonny Peralta SS
8th Alex Avila C
9th Ryan Raburn 2B

If you’re going down to any games this weekend, every start time will be different. Friday night’s game is scheduled to start at 7:05, broadcast on FS Detroit.  Saturday’s game will be a nationally televised matinee, with a gametime of 4:05 and the broadcast on WJBK-2. Sunday’s game is the usual matinee for this day, with a start time of 1:05 and television coverage on FS Detroit. All games will be aired on 97.1, with no changes there.

No matter how you’re following this weekend’s slate of games, enjoy them and enjoy the weekend.

Gordie Fall

Gordon Fall has been around the Detroit sports scene for his entire life and even entered the world with a Red Wings hockey stick in hand. With a variety of connections around the Detroit area, Fall will be presenting the unspoken, yet optimistic truth of our city’s sports scene.