John Danks (13-10, 3.69) vs. Justin Verlander (18-9, 3.45), 1:05 p.m. EST
And so, it has all come to this. The Detroit Tigers have played 161 games in this 2009 season, and it will take the final one on the schedule to determine this team's ultimate fate.
If the Tigers win today, they will assure themselves of at least extending their season to a one-game tiebreaker on Tuesday. If they win and the Twins lose, Detroit will be home to the AL Central champions. If the Tigers lose and the Twins lose, the division title will be decided early Tuesday evening at the Metrodome.
So the Tigers really need to win today. And with that, it's best that Justin Verlander is pitching for them. Games like this are why teams need a stud starting pitcher. You want to use your best in your most important game. Verlander has carried the Tigers all season, so he might as well be the guy to hoist his team into the postseason.
Verlander has been spectacular against the White Sox this season, winning two starts and allowing only one earned run in 18 innings. Over his career, however, they've roughed him up, tagging him with a 4-9 record and 4.97 ERA in 16 starts.
Standing between the Tigers and a possible postseason bid is John Danks, who broke a five-game winless streak in his last start. Facing the Indians, Danks allowed one run and three hits while pitching a complete game, the first of his major league career.
He lost his lone start against the Tigers this year, despite giving up just two runs and five hits in 7.1 innings. In seven career starts versus Detroit, Danks is 2-2 with a 3.74 ERA. He's 8-3 with a 3.08 ERA in 17 road starts this season.
Something that might work in the Tigers' favor, as Billfer loves to point out, is Amber Grand singing today's National Anthem. Detroit is 6-1 when she performs the Star-Spangled Banner.