For the second time in less than two weeks, Justin Verlander and Chris Sale will oppose each other on the mound.
Verlander won the previous duel and another victory Thursday will put the Detroit Tigers into a first-place tie with the Chicago White Sox atop the American League Central. The two division foes will close out a four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field.
The AL's reigning Cy Young Award winner and league MVP, Verlander struck out 11 and gave up just one run in eight innings of a 4-2 win over Sale and the White Sox on Sept. 2. Sale was reached for all four runs in six innings, while Verlander won his second start of the season against Chicago. Verlander has made 27 career starts in this series, going 14-10 with a 3.93 earned run average.
Verlander, though, didn't fare so well his last time out in a 6-1 loss on Saturday at Angel Stadium and permitted six runs and nine hits in six innings. The loss dropped him to 13-8 in 29 outings this season and raised his ERA to 2.91. In 16 road assignments, Verlander is 6-6 with a 4.02 ERA.
Max Scherzer took care of his business on the mound in last night's 8-6 win and limited the hosts to a run and four hits in six innings. He is 16-6 on the season and struck out seven batters without issuing a walk. Brayan Villarreal, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde struggled over the last three innings, allowing a combined five runs, before Valverde posted his 30th save.
Prince Fielder hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning, while Miguel Cabrera and Austin Jackson finished with three hits apiece for the Tigers, whose deficit in the AL Central is now one and have prevailed in back-to-back games since losing four straight and six of seven.
"If we focus on playing good baseball, it should work out," Fielder said.
Fielder has eight doubles, 10 home runs and 26 RBI in his last 38 games dating back to Aug. 1. Detroit will continue its 10-game road swing with three games at Cleveland this weekend.
Chicago will close the lid on a 10-game homestand (4-5) this evening and looks to earn a split of this set with Detroit.
Gavin Floyd returned to action following a stint on the disabled list and allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings to absorb the loss. Floyd struck out seven and allowed one walk.
Kevin Youkilis homered twice and finished with four RBI for Chicago, which hasn't won consecutive games since a six-game winning streak from Aug. 20-26 and is only 5-11 in the past 16 contests.
"We're not quitting at any point," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "That's the one great thing about the team, they're not going to get down where they're giving up."
The White Sox will hit the road after Thursday's game and will visit the Twins, Royals and Angels on a nine-game trek.
Meanwhile, Sale had lost two straight and three of four starts until throwing six innings of one-run ball in a 5-4 win over Kansas City on Saturday. The southpaw pushed his record to 16-6 in 26 games, 25 of which have been starts, to go along with a 2.88 earned run average.
Sale lost at Detroit on that aforementioned Sept. 2 meeting, as he surrendered four runs in six innings. He has lost all three of his starts against Detroit this season and is 1-3 with a 4.41 ERA in 13 meetings (3 starts) with the Tigers. Sale has a home winning streak going for him and is 8-0 with a 1.20 ERA over his last nine starts at U.S. Cellular Field. He is 9-2 in 12 overall appearances in the south side of the city.
The Tigers are 12-5 against the Pale Hose this season.
Chicago ended a seven-game slide to Detroit with Monday's 6-1 win.