Chicago White Sox (34-52) at Detroit Tigers (49-39)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Pitching Matchup: LHP Jose Quintana (3-2, 3.69 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (9-5, 3.54 ERA)
Quintana has been a solid mid-rotation starter for the White Sox this season, allowing a 3.38 ERA since getting lit up by the Seattle Mariners for six runs (five earned) in four innings in his first start of the season. He has not allowed more than four runs in a start since then. His ERA got a solid boost from his last outing, when he threw seven shutout innings against the Baltimore Orioles. He struck out 11 hitters while walking just one, throwing a fairly efficient 112 pitches.
Overall, Quintana's numbers are very similar to his rookie season in 2012, but with a couple improvements. He has struck out more batters without increasing his walk rate. He has lowered his line drive rate by nearly 4%, which may be a reason his BABIP has decreased from .299 in 2012 to .265 in 2013. He is generating more fly balls and pop ups than last season, but his home run rate has not increased significantly.
One reason for these improvements are his numbers against right-handed hitters. In 2012, righties hit .284/.349/.426 off him. In 2013, they are hitting just .224/.287/.374. I'm hesitant to say that it's because his changeup has been better, because it's still pretty bad. Last season, his changeup was a whopping 4.60 runs below average per 100 pitches. This year, it's still 1.76 runs below average per 100 pitches. He is throwing the changeup slightly more often to righties, but they are still getting around on it for a .333 batting average.
Like 2011, it seems that a trip to the Rogers Centre was able to cure what ailed Justin Verlander. While he still has been a very good pitcher -- All-Star worthy, even -- in 2013, his results weren't quite at the superhuman levels he has achieved over the past two years. His ERA and WHIP are both higher than we are used to seeing, in large part due to some shoddy fastball command. Opposing batters are hitting .304 off Verlander's fastball this year, and his walk rate is his highest since 2008.
Against the Blue Jays, however, we saw vintage Verlander. He was spotting his fastball for most of the game, which resulted in some ugly swings from Blue Jays hitters. When Jose Reyes popped out on a weak swing to begin the game, I had a good feeling about the outcome.
Fastball command isn't quite there, but GOOD LORD UGLY SWINGS ARE ENCOURAGING— BYB Rob (@Detroit4lyfeRob) July 4, 2013
The command improved, and Verlander allowed just five baserunners in seven shutout innings. I still want my royalty check for finding those mechanical flaws, Tigers.
Things to know about the White Sox
- Gordon Beckham is actually hitting this season (.338/.364/.426 in 39 games)
- They miss A.J. Pierzynski. Catcher Tyler Flowers is hitting just .205/.257/.367, which has led them to call up Josh Phegley. He's no savior, however. John Sickels ranked him as the 19th best prospect in Chicago's barren minor league system.
- Paul Konerko is on the disabled list, so please stop asking why he's not playing tonight.
- Casper Wells is on their roster. His scoreless inning in relief against the Cleveland Indians might be the most productive thing he has done all season.
- Alexei Ramirez has a .650 OPS this season, so expect four home runs and seven web gems from him in this series. Ditto Dewayne Wise, who is the #1 Tigers killer in baseball.
- The only player on their roster with an OPS above .790 is Phegley, and he only has 11 plate appearances this season.
The Tigers have been 10 games over .500 on three separate occasions before tonight's game. They are 0-3 in each of those games. Verlander was directly responsible for one of those losses, allowing home runs to JJ Hardy and Adam Jones in a loss to the Baltimore Orioles back on June 18th. In that game, he was coming off an outing in which he had allowed five baserunners in seven shutout innings on the road. Deja vu or a shot at redemption? Given how much better he looked mechanically in his last start, I'd go with the latter.
Quintana has been playing with fire on the road this year, allowing a 1.336 WHIP and 111 tOPS+. However, he has stranded 76% of baserunners to keep his road ERA at a modest 3.55. That said, other than a start against the A's* -- and he gave up 10 hits in that outing -- he hasn't exactly faced a murderer's row of opponents on the road. He'll strand a decent number of runners tonight, but the Tigers will plate enough runs to back a seemingly resurgent Verlander.
*Quintana also faced the Indians on the road, but that was back in early April when they were one of the worst offensive teams in baseball.
The Tigers go 11 games over .500 for the first time in 2013 tonight.