Game 98 Preview: Tigers at White Sox

USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers and White Sox begin their four game series with a bang tonight as Cy Young candidates Max Scherzer and Chris Sale go head to head.

Detroit Tigers (53-44) at Chicago White Sox (39-56)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field

SB Nation blog: South Side Sox

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Max Scherzer (13-1, 3.19 ERA) vs. LHP Chris Sale (6-8, 2.85 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Scherzer 19 129.2 10.55 2.15 0.83 0.98 2.67 2.74 4.0
Sale 17 120.0 9.83 2.03 0.83 1.01 2.93 2.88 3.3

Sale's last start before the All-Star break was against the Tigers, who had him as close to "on the ropes" as just about anyone this season. He failed to make it through the seventh inning for just the fourth time this season and allowed a season-high 10 hits. This has to be how teams feel when facing Max Scherzer these days, who has been just as dominant -- if not as efficient -- as Sale.

Sale's outing in the All-Star game was impressive as well. He threw two scoreless innings and made Carlos Gonzalez look foolish in their matchup.

Sale_cargo_asg_medium

The last time I previewed Sale, I touched on his ability to dominate left-handed hitters. Thanks to a single by Prince Fielder in their last matchup, lefties now have an OPS of .345 against Sale -- yes, it went up. What might be more impressive, however, is Sale's ability to dominate right-handed hitters as well. Righties are hitting just .231/.285/.370 against him this season. That .656 OPS is nearly 100 points lower than Justin Verlander's OPS against right-handed hitters.

How is Sale doing it? He's mixing all three of his pitches well against righties, but they are hitting just .182 with a .030 ISO against his changeup.

Max allowed four runs in six innings against the Texas Rangers in his last start, picking up his first loss of the season. It was the first time he had allowed more than three runs in an outing in nearly two months, and only the fifth time all season. He kept his streak of consecutive starts with at least six strikeouts alive, punching out six Rangers hitters while walking three.

Here's something fun: Max has upped his curveball usage rate to 8.17% on the season after using it roughly 5% of the time in April. He's throwing it almost 10% of the time in the past two months, primarily against left-handed hitters when ahead in the count. It has been an effective weapon for him too; lefties are hitting .154 with a .039 ISO off the yellowhammer.

Reason why the Tigers are doomed

Paul Konerko will return from the disabled list for tonight's game.

Reason why the Tigers are not doomed

Konerko is 37 years old and has a .682 OPS this season.

Outlook

While Sale pitched well overall against the Tigers last time out, he was still knocked around more than usual (as noted above). This is nothing new for him. He has a 4.35 ERA and 157 tOPS+ against the Tigers in 39 1/3 career innings. I wouldn't expect them to light him up for eight runs in two innings, but they should be able to give Max enough run support to start a new winning streak.

Prediction

Scherzer wins his 14th game of the season.

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