Chicago White Sox (70-78) at Detroit Tigers (69-79)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jeff Samardzija (9-13, 5.27 ERA) vs. LHP Kyle Ryan (2-3, 5.32 ERA)
The last time we saw Jeff Samardzija, things were looking up for the 30-year-old righthander. He had a 3.71 FIP and was coming off three consecutive quality starts. He hit a slight speed bump against the Tigers, allowing four runs in a 5-4 loss, but went on to have an excellent July. Samardzija put together a 2.23 ERA in five starts, lowering his season-long ERA to 3.94 with a 3.65 FIP at the trade deadline.
However, the White Sox declined to cash in on Samardzija's burgeoning trade value, instead choosing to hang on to him for an ill-fated run at the wild card. Samardzija has "rewarded" their faith with a 9.24 ERA and 1.024 OPS allowed in his last nine starts, including an 11-hit, 10-run outing six days ago. He has allowed 12 home runs and a whopping .285 isolated power (ISO) during this stretch, resulting in a 6.19 FIP. This isn't the work of a few bad starts, either; Samardzija has allowed four runs in eight of his nine outings since the trade deadline.
By comparison, Kyle Ryan looks positively ace-like. He had a rough season at Triple-A Toledo, allowing a 4.63 ERA in 103 innings. His 3.30 FIP looks nice, but is largely due to a minuscule home run rate. He has been better lately, however, allowing a 1.82 ERA and a .610 OPS across all levels since August 1. Relegated to mop-up duty in September, he has a 3.38 ERA in three appearances. He has only allowed one home run during this stretch, which is the end-goal for a pitcher like Ryan. He doesn't have the stuff to dominate hitters, so he has to limit hard contact and force opponents to string together multiple hits to beat him.
Hitter to fear: Jose Abreu (.400/.500/.600 in 6 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Melky Cabrera (.000/.000/.000 in 3 plate appearances)
It's early, but Kyle Ryan has been a thorn in Chicago's side over the past two seasons. He threw six shutout innings against the White Sox in his major league debut last August, then held them to two runs on three hits in seven innings this June. They have a .205 batting average and .577 OPS against him as a team, despite Jose Abreu's 2-for-5 performance. He has held righties like Avisail Garcia, Tyler Flowers, and the switch-hitting Melky Cabrera in check, something he needs to do more consistently at the major league level.
Earlier this season, Samardzija found his form against the Tigers, bouncing back from rough outings to hold Detroit to three runs in two starts. In June, the Tigers figured him out, scoring 10 runs across 14 2/3 innings. Now, with Samardzija in the midst of the worst stretch of his career, we will see how he fares. The Tigers have been better recently, scoring 36 runs in their past seven games, but their roster is batting just .233/.270/.350 against Samardzija for his career. If there's a matchup for him to get right, this is it.
Ryan earns the fifth win of his young career with a solid five-inning effort.