Chicago White Sox (71-84) at Detroit Tigers (86-69)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Pitching Matchup: RHP Chris Bassitt (0-1, 5.29 ERA) vs. LHP Kyle Lobstein (1-0, 3.58 ERA)
Chris Bassitt made his major league debut against the Tigers back in August. He struggled with his command, walking four batters in 6 1/3 innings. He allowed five earned runs in the game, an 8-4 Tigers victory. The loss is still his only decision at the big league level. Oddly, it was both his longest start and his worst effort in terms of runs allowed. Bassitt has only started two more games throughout September, as the White Sox have experimented with a six man rotation at times. He held the Oakland Athletics to a run in six innings, then allowed three runs in just 3 2/3 innings against the Kansas City Royals in his last outing.
Bassitt relies heavily on a two-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s. His ground ball rate is only 40.7 percent in the majors, but was 46.1 percent in 43 1/3 minor league innings this year. He missed the first half of the season due to a broken right hand. The injury doesn't seem to have had a negative impact on his command, but only because it was never very good in the first place. Bassitt walked 138 batters in 319 career minor league innings, and has continued that trend with 11 walks in 17 innings at the big league level.
Kyle Lobstein's walk rate is better than Bassitt's, but not by much. He gave up four runs on six hits against the Cleveland Indians in his last start, his worst outing of the season at the big league level. To his credit, he has limited the free passes in his last two starts, walking just three of 44 batters he has faced. The White Sox have been a league average unit against left-handed pitching this year, with a .715 OPS and 97 wRC+.
Hitter to fear: Jose Abreu (.433/.500/.817 in 68 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Conor Gillaspie (.200/.238/.250 in 42 plate appearances)
No, those numbers aren't against Lobstein, who is making his first career start against the White Sox tonight. Jose Abreu has absolutely tormented Tigers pitching this season, putting up a 1.317 OPS in 68 plate appearances. Five of Abreu's 35 homers have come against Detroit, including three already at Comerica Park. Tigers fans will be happy to see Adam Dunn's name absent from the lineup card in this series. Dunn had five home runs against the Tigers before being traded to the A's in August.
Second half blues
The White Sox have been more competitive this season than their current record suggests. They were within seven games of first place on July 31st, but an awful 9-19 record in August dropped them another 5 1/2 games out of first place by September 1st. The big reason for their demise? Their offense -- one of the better units in the American League during the first half -- has fallen apart in the second half. They have scored just 3.79 runs per game since the All-Star break, the third-worst mark in the league. However, their .702 OPS ranks fifth in the AL.
Clinching a fourth straight AL Central title would have been a lot easier with a win yesterday, but the Tigers still enter the week with their destiny in their own hands. They are just 8-8 against the White Sox this year, but should benefit from playing in front of the home fans. They are 14-6 at Comerica Park since August 1st, pushing their overall home record to 41-33. The Tigers faithful deserve another title, though: the team has clinched their last three division championships on the road.
Neither starter makes it out of the fifth, but the Tigers' bullpen holds strong in late innings.