Chicago White Sox (72-78) at Detroit Tigers (69-81)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Pitching Matchup: LHP Jose Quintana (9-10, 3.45 ERA) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (2-2, 4.28 ERA)
Another season has come and gone, and once again, Jose Quintana remains one of the most underappreciated pitchers in the game. Still without an All-Star appearance or winning record, Quintana has posted a 3.43 ERA and 3.26 FIP over the past three seasons. He tallied 200 innings in both 2013 and 2014, and is a near-lock to reach that total again this season. He has put together a strong 3.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio during that span, a figure that is on the upswing. Oh, and he's a 26-year-old on a very team-friendly contract through 2020. Forgive me if I once again curse the charmed life that Rick Hahn has been living lately.
He won't get an award for it, but Quintana has gotten even better in 2015. His strikeout rate dipped ever so slightly from last season, but he has lowered his walk rate to 5.1 percent, a career-best. He has stranded 75.5 percent of runners despite a .334 BABIP, and has slowly started to improve his ground ball rate. Most important of all, Quintana has limited home runs, allowing just 14 long balls despite pitching in a bandbox of a home ballpark.
Quintana has been particularly stingy over the latter half of 2015. Since last facing the Tigers in late June, Quintana has held opponents to a 2.97 ERA and 2.69 FIP in 15 starts. The White Sox are somehow only 8-7 in these games, a stat made even more astonishing by the fact that Quintana has not allowed more than four runs in a start since May 24. He has a 5.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio since July 1 (the aforementioned 15-start stretch) and is limiting opponents to a .313 on-base percentage. He has clamped down even more lately, allowing just three runs (two earned) in 20 September innings.
Meanwhile, Tigers fans would probably be thrilled if Daniel Norris turned into a version of Quintana. The 22-year-old lefty turned in his first start in nearly a month six days ago, allowing one run while setting down 11 Twins hitters on 47 pitches. Norris' fastball looked sharp, and he only allowed one hit over 3 2/3 innings. Most importantly, Norris did not walk a batter, lowering his walk rate to 4.9 percent in a Tigers uniform. This is probably unsustainable for 2016, but it's a promising stretch of games, even if his 4.68 ERA doesn't give off the same vibe.
Tigers hitter to fear: Victor Martinez (.481/.481/.556 in 27 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: J.D. Martinez (.176/.263/.294 in 19 plate appearances)
Yoenis Cespedes and his four home runs in 15 at-bats against Jose Quintana may be gone, but the Tigers have handled the 26-year-old lefthander with relative ease. Their active roster is batting .320 with a .795 OPS against him, and they have tagged him for 17 runs in four meetings this season. For his career, Quintana is 4-3 with a stellar 3.80 strikeout-to-walk ratio against the Tigers, but they have put plenty of runners on base along the way. Both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez have an OPS north of 1.000, and Rajai Davis, Ian Kinsler, and Nick Castellanos are all batting .300 in 20-plus at-bats.
If the Tigers thought they had offensive woes yesterday, they may be running into a buzzsaw tonight. Quintana has been on a roll for four months now, and the Tigers haven't always found a way to beat him despite racking up plenty of hits. With Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez not at their sharpest, the onus will fall on Victor Martinez and others to produce, something that has not gone well in 2015. Plus, with Norris still likely on a strict pitch count, we may see more Tigers bullpen than most doctors would recommend.
Quintana rolls and the White Sox win their third straight.