Detroit Tigers (73-85) at Chicago White Sox (74-85)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Pitching Matchup: RHP Alfredo Simon (13-11, 5.18 ERA) vs. LHP Chris Sale (12-11, 3.48 ERA)
Chris Sale has had a rough second half, allowing a 4.59 ERA in 13 starts. Those numbers could be even worse, as he was only charged for one earned run in a 12-1 loss against the Cleveland Indians on September 18. The Tribe scored seven runs on eight hits off Sale, but the shoddy Sox defense was a major culprit in the bad loss. Sale has given up six runs or more on four separate occasions this half, and has not surrounded those lemons with his typical dominant outings.
While Sale has been hit harder in the second half -- his hard-hit percentage has risen from 23.5 percent to 27.5 percent -- he is still striking out a boatload of hitters. Sale has 110 strikeouts to just 18 walks in 82 1/3 innings since the All-Star break, a 6.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This includes at least six strikeouts in all but one of his outings, a three-inning shellacking at the hands of the Minnesota Twins.
On the other hand, Alfredo Simon has not struck out six batters in a start since July 1. He has 41 total strikeouts in the second half, just three more than Sale has in the month of September. Instead of strikeouts, Simon has been giving up hits -- a lot of them. He has allowed at least eight hits in each of his last four starts, and well over a hit per inning for the past two months. The Tigers have relied on him to eat innings however possible, such as in his last start when he allowed four runs in eight innings of work in a loss to the Twins.
Hitter to fear: Adam Eaton (.556/.600/1.222 in 11 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Melky Cabrera (.167/.214/.250 in 14 plate appearances)
Simon has limited the White Sox to a .219 batting average and .309 on-base percentage this season, but they have hit for plenty of power. Nine of Chicago's 16 hits in three matchups have gone for extra bases, including three home runs. Despite the high ISO, Simon is limiting them to a 4.19 ERA and has not taken a loss. Adam Eaton is the only Sox hitter who has had sustained success against Simon, tallying five hits in 11 plate appearances.
Key matchup: Tigers fans vs. the remote
The Tigers have been downright unwatchable at times this season, and many of Alfredo Simon's starts have been at the forefront of this conversation. Simon has not pitched well, and works slowly to boot, making for a rather unpleasant viewing experience. With playoff races brewing elsewhere -- the Astros, Angels, and Twins are all within a game for the second wild card slot -- it may be difficult to stay focused on Simon.
Luckily, Chris Sale is on the mound for the White Sox, which makes for quality TV. Sale is two strikeouts away from tying the White Sox single season strikeout record, set by Ed Walsh in 1908. Walsh threw 464 innings that season. Sale's actual strikeout rate (32.3 percent) is second to the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, but Sale leads the majors in strikeouts per nine innings. If he can up his 11.92 strikeouts per nine innings rate a bit tonight, he could become the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2001 to crack 12 strikeouts per nine innings.
Sale gets his record, but Simon gets the win and the Tigers climb out of last place.