Chicago White Sox (3-6) at Detroit Tigers (9-1)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Pitching Matchup: LHP Chris Sale (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (1-1, 3.46 ERA)
Chris Sale got a delayed start to the 2015 season after fracturing his right foot during spring training. The injury resulted in Sale's second stint on the disabled list in as many years, but the lanky lefthander only missed one start. Sale made his season debut on April 12 against the Minnesota Twins, limiting them to one run on five hits in six innings. This was nothing new for Sale, who worked six innings in all but three of his 26 starts last season. He had 14 starts with eight strikeouts or more, and logged double-digit strikeouts eight times.
As you might expect from a pitcher with Sale's incredible numbers, he has few (if any) weaknesses. We asked Jim Margalus of South Side Sox if there were any areas where Sale could improve in this week's series preview. Jim had just as much trouble thinking of something as I did.
The only drawback for Sale is that he tends to miss a few starts throughout the year. But he’s still averaged 193 innings over the last three years, so it's not a huge issue -- especially when he’s so dominant per start. Otherwise, his pickoff move could use some work, maybe?
Sale dominated right-handers last season, holding them to a .214 batting average and .608 OPS. Lefthanders had zero chance against him, hitting .165/.211/.182. Sale has only allowed three home runs to left-handed batters in his career, and two of them came on swings from former Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch. Sale allowed a slightly higher batting average and on-base percentage on the road last season, but his 1.93 ERA away from U.S. Cellular Field was the fifth-best split in baseball.
Anibal Sanchez was not very sharp in his last outing, allowing three home runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 5-4 Tigers loss, their only defeat of the season. The homer barrage is a continuation of an odd tendency Sanchez demonstrated during spring training, when he allowed seven homers in 30 innings. Sanchez has typically been very stingy about allowing homers. He has only given up 24 in 395 2/3 innings as a Tiger, the same number that Justin Verlander gave up in his 2011 MVP season. Sanchez had the second-lowest home run rate among MLB pitchers last season (minimum 100 innings pitched), so it will be interesting to see if this early bout of "gopher-itis" will plague him for long.
Hitter to fear: Melky Cabrera (.458/.458/.458 in 24 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Alexei Ramirez (.167/.211/.222 in 19 plate appearances)
Sanchez has pitched well against the White Sox throughout his career, but the current roster has had quite a bit of success against him. The 11 Sox players that Sanchez has faced previously are hitting a combined .322/.338/.399 against him, though no players have homered (not even Jose Abreu). Tyler Flowers will get today's start behind the plate despite Geovany Soto's five hits in 10 at-bats. Conor Gillaspie has a double and a triple in 17 at-bats. Melky Cabrera is 11 for 24, but has no extra base hits.
We all remember the hijinx that happened last time Sale pitched at Comerica Park, but the Tigers would be wise to remember the approach that got them to that point. Sale struck out 10 and only allowed one run, but the Tigers fouled off 21 pitches, elevating Sale's pitch count above the century mark in just six innings. The White Sox have a much improved bullpen in 2015, but getting into their middle relief corps is still the best way to win when facing one of the best pitchers in baseball. Don't expect many offensive fireworks today.
The Tigers keep rolling, today in comeback fashion.
- Rajai Davis, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- James McCann, C
- Hernan Perez, 3B
- Jose Iglesias, SS
White Sox lineup:
- Adam Eaton, CF
- Melky Cabrera, LF
- Jose Abreu, DH
- Adam LaRoche, 1B
- Avisail Garcia, RF
- Conor Gillaspie, 3B
- Alexei Ramirez, SS
- Tyler Flowers, C
- Micah Johnson, 2B
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