Detroit Tigers (77-68) at Chicago White Sox (79-66)
Time/Place: 2:00 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field
SB Nation Blog: South Side Sox
Pitching Matchup: RHP Doug Fister (9-8, 3.49 ERA) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (6-4, 3.52 ERA)
Prior to his last start, Quintana looked to have hit a rookie wall, allowing 15 runs in 10 2/3 innings over his previous three starts. And with the Tigers coming to town, his recent performance wasn't warranting much confidence from the fans or media. However, Quintana delivered in a big way, allowing just one run in 7 2/3 innings against the Tigers. The win was a pivotal victory for the Sox in the first game of a four game series at home, one in which that they were poised to dominate to take total control of the division...
...until Doug Fister happened the next night. Fister was just as dominant, allowing two runs in 7 innings and retiring the last 14 batters he faced. Dougie Fresh -- not to be confused with Doug E. Fresh, because we don't violate copyright laws here at BYB -- has put his momentary August struggles (a.k.a. one bad game against the Baltimore Orioles) behind him with a couple of masterful performances in the month of September.
Is Robin Ventura making the right decision?
If Quintana hadn't pitched so well in his last start, the decision to pen him in as a starter tonight would look downright insane on Ventura's part. Why? Because Gavin Floyd -- who has dominated the Tigers in a not-so-small sample of 120 1/3 innings in his career -- would be able to pitch tonight on regular rest. Ventura shook up his rotation by having Francisco Liriano start on Saturday against the Minnesota Twins, a brilliant decision in hindsight, as Liriano took a no-hitter into the 7th inning. However, his previous rotation juggling -- namely, the last two times he has moved Jake Peavy around to face the Tigers -- has backfired. Tonight may work out in his favor, but if I were a Sox fan, I would much rather see Floyd on the hill tonight.
If you believe in must-win games in a 162 game baseball schedule, this would be it. A victory keeps the Tigers within striking distance of the Sox, while a loss puts them three games back with 16 left to play. It's not impossible for the Tigers to win the division with a loss today, but it would make for a serious uphill battle. They will be without Alex Avila today -- though I wonder if he would have played anyway with a lefty on the mound -- and Austin Jackson's status is still up in the air, but the Tigers need to take advantage of this opportunity.
Fister comes through with another big outing to keep the Tigers in the divisional race.