Chicago White Sox (52-55) at Detroit Tigers (57-46)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Pitching Matchup: RHP Hector Noesi (5-6, 4.37 ERA) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (12-3, 3.37 ERA)
Hector Noesi might be the most boring pitcher to profile in the AL Central. He has put together a 4.53 ERA in his eight starts since last facing the Tigers. This is slightly higher than his 4.37 ERA in a White Sox uniform this year. He has 69 strikeouts to 36 walks in 94 2/3 innings with the White Sox. His strikeout, walk, and home run rates are all worse than league average, but none are particularly egregious. His 9.3 percent swinging strike rate is above the league average of 8.6 percent, and he's piping in first-pitch strikes at a 62.1 percent clip. However, these are cancelled out by the fact that he is allowing opposing batters to hit .276/.346/.517 with runners in scoring position.
Ok, so maybe Noesi's reverse splits are a bit perplexing. Right-handed batters are hitting .320/.379/.491 off him, while lefties have a .700 OPS. However, lefties are responsible for 10 of the 15 homers Noesi has allowed this year. The 138 point difference in BABIP -- righties are at .372, lefties at .234 -- may have something to do with those numbers.
One thing working in Noesi's favor is his hot start to the second half. He has allowed just five runs on nine hits in his last two starts, both victories. Sure, they came against the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins, but a pair of good starts nonetheless.
Max Scherzer has also turned in a pair of solid outings since the All-Star Break, but against far stiffer competition. After battling through some command issues against the Cleveland Indians, Scherzer struck out 11 in seven solid innings against the Los Angeles Angels last weekend. More importantly, Scherzer out-dueled should-be All-Star Garrett Richards to give the Tigers their only victory of the series. It was the first time he had allowed three runs in a start since his season-worst outing against the Kansas City Royals on June 17th. In his six starts since, Scherzer has been utterly dominant, striking out 50 hitters in 40 2/3 innings.
Hitter to fear: Dayan Viciedo (.310/.333/.690 in 30 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Alexei Ramirez (.118/.193/.157 in 58 plate appearances)
Dayan Viciedo has had Scherzer's number over the past few seasons, collecting nine hits -- six for extra bases -- in 29 at-bats. Viciedo is one of three Sox hitters with multiple home runs off Scherzer, but the only one hitting .300 in more than 10 plate appearances. More importantly, Jose Abreu has struggled against Scherzer in their three previous meetings this year. Abreu, who has hit five of his 31 home runs against the Tigers in 2014, is just 1-for-10 with three strikeouts against the reigning Cy Young winner.
Scherzer hit a rough patch earlier this season, allowing four runs or more five times in a six-start stretch in May and June. The skid went largely unnoticed, as the Tigers went 3-3 during those games and the sixth start was his first career shutout (against these same White Sox, no less). I detailed his numbers since that stretch above, but consider what he did before then. Scherzer had a 1.83 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 59 innings, allowing a .593 OPS. These aren't quite Clayton Kershaw numbers, but they're not far off.
Scherzer gets the Tigers back on track with a much-needed W.
Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting daily $18,000 Fantasy Baseball leagues. It's $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Click here for details.