Detroit Tigers (33-31) at Chicago White Sox (32-33)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Mike Pelfrey (1-6, 4.68 ERA) vs. LHP Chris Sale (10-2, 2.87 ERA)
When the Tigers faced Chris Sale 11 days ago, I highlighted Sale's newfound penchant for pitching to contact. It was hard to argue with the results at the time, as Sale was 9-1 with a 2.29 ERA. However, as we have seen with the Tigers' low-strikeout pitchers, allowing opponents to put the ball into play is not a good idea. Even the mighty Sale has felt the wrath of the BABIP gods lately, allowing nine run on 20 (!) hits in his last two starts. Dating back to a start against the Cleveland Indians on May 24, Sale has a 6.75 ERA in his last four outings, all against divisional opponents.
The weird part is Sale is still racking up strikeouts. He has 24 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings during this rough four-start stretch, including three games with seven or more punchouts (the lone exception was his start against Detroit). However, familiarity seems to be working against him, as teams have gone from collecting 5.1 hits per nine innings in his first nine starts (all against different opponents) to 13.8 hits per nine in his last four outings.
Is the familiarity to blame? It's tough to say. Sale has struggled a bit against a couple of AL Central foes in the past -- the Indians and Twins have some of the best career numbers against him -- but that may be true for many pitchers who spend a lot of time with one team. This stretch may also be a blip on the radar; after all, he still has a 2.87 ERA.
Tigers hitter to fear: Victor Martinez (.500/.537/.917 in 41 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Nick Castellanos (.053/.095/.093 in 21 plate appearances)
In case the voices on Fox Sports Detroit's broadcast don't say it enough times today -- it got several mentions on Tuesday's broadcast -- Victor Martinez is batting .500 in a healthy number of plate appearances against Chris Sale. Martinez is not the only Tiger who has had success, though; the current roster is batting .268/.346/.451 off Sale in 243 combined plate appearances. Jose Iglesias and J.D. Martinez are two players who have done well against Sale before, while Nick Castellanos should probably get the day off.
It can't happen again, can it? Mike Pelfrey's unexpected win over Sale and the White Sox 11 days ago was the biggest "because baseball" moment of the season, a one-in-umpteen percent chance that probably won't be repeated anytime soon. I could poke around at Sale's relatively subpar numbers against the Tigers, or his 6.75 ERA in his last four starts, or his ugly 4.14 FIP in six home starts as reasons why to hope lightning will strike twice, but I'm expecting a vintage Chris Sale performance on Wednesday. Don't be shocked to see double digit strikeouts.
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