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Game 107 Preview: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers

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The surging Tigers have sliced their deficit in the AL Central down to three games.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago White Sox (51-55) at Detroit Tigers (58-48)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Chris Sale (14-4, 3.17 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Fulmer (9-2, 2.50 ERA)

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Sale 139.0 24.1 5.8 3.69 2.9
Fulmer 97.1 21.3 7.6 3.69 1.8

Throughout his career, Chris Sale has been able to slash his way through the Tigers lineup with ease. He sports a modest 8-6 record against Detroit, but has a sharp 3.20 ERA and 3.72 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 123 2/3 innings. This year has been a little different though. Sale has been living on razor's edge against the Tigers, allowing seven runs on 15 hits in two meetings. He was nicked by Mike Pelfrey in their first meeting, a 7-4 Tigers victory on June 4, but sliced back in a 5-3 win 11 days later.

While he sports a stellar 14-4 record and 3.17 ERA, this season has seemed a bit dull by Sale's usual standards. His 24.1 percent strikeout rate ranks 25th among qualified starters, and is his lowest since he arrived in the majors. We pointed at his diminished velocity previously, and while a declining K-rate makes for less excitement during each start, he is working deeper into games than in previous years. Sale has averaged seven innings per start in 2016, piercing his way through lineups like never before.

Surprisingly, Sale's raw stuff is still as scathing as in years prior. He hasn't lost any movement on his biting slider, and the diminished fastball velocity is allowing for a bit more arm-side run than in 2015. Opponents are making more hard contact than in previous years, but a slight spike in his fly ball rate has helped him limit the damage.

Tigers hitter to fear: Victor Martinez (.500/.537/.917 in 41 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Nick Castellanos (.091/.125/.091 in 24 plate appearances)

Sale has sliced his way through the Tigers lineup like a hot knife through butter for most of his career, save for a couple of standout performances. Victor Martinez is hitting a robust .500 with a .917 slugging average off Sale in 41 plate appearances, and Jose Iglesias' .412 batting average isn't bad either. Miguel Cabrera has been held in check for the most part, but has drawn a 20.8 percent walk rate in 48 plate appearances.

Outlook

The Tigers' current seven game win streak has chopped their deficit in the AL Central to just three games, but they face a stiff challenge in the next two days with Sale and Jose Quintana on the mound. Giving Michael Fulmer extra rest has paid off for the Tigers so far this season -- he has a 2.10 ERA with five days of rest between starts and a 1.80 ERA after six or more days off -- and the White Sox have struggled to put runs on the board all year long. If the Tigers can find a way to cut into Sale's pitch count early, they might just win their eighth in a row.

Prediction

Fulmer dices his way to his 10th win of the season.

★★★

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