Max Scherzer will try for a third time to reach the 20-win mark when he leads the Detroit Tigers into the Windy City to take on the Chicago White Sox in the opener of a three-game series.
Scherzer has taken over as the ace of the Detroit rotation because Justin Verlander has seen better days this season. Scherzer is 0-1 with a 5.25 earned run average in his two attempts to crack the 20-win mark and pitched well in defeat Tuesday in a 2-1 loss at Boston.
The right-hander allowed both runs to the Red Sox in seven innings and was trying to become just the second pitcher in baseball history to win 20 of his first 21 decisions. Scherzer was hoping to join Roger Clemens (2001) as the only pitchers to begin a season 20-1.
Detroit had won three straight and seven of Scherzer's previous eight starts and he is now 19-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 28 appearances. Scherzer is 8-1 in 14 road assignments this season and 2-0 in three starts against the White Sox. In 16 career starts in this series with Chicago, Scherzer has recorded a 7-4 mark to go along with a 2.34 ERA.
Chicago will counter with Chris Sale on Monday and he is 4-1 with a 3.15 ERA in his last six starts. Sale did not record a decision in Tuesday's 6-4 loss at Yankee Stadium and was reached for three runs -- two earned -- over 7 1/3 innings.
Sale is 10-12 with a 2.97 ERA in 26 starts, one season after going 17-8 in 30 games (29 starts). The left-hander is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA in three starts against the Tigers this season and 3-4 in 16 career meetings, three of which have been starts, with Detroit.
September hasn't been kind to the Tigers and they have dropped five of seven games to start the month. The AL Central leaders lost two of three at Kansas City over the weekend and sustained a 5-2 loss in Sunday's finale, as Doug Fister absorbed the loss for giving up five runs in 6 1/3 innings.
Royals starter Bruce Chen limited Detroit's potent lineup to two runs across seven innings.
"He's very, very frustrating," Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said of Chen. "You think it's there, and then right when you swing, it cuts or sinks out of the zone. He's not nasty, he's just frustrating. I'd pull my hair out, but I don't have any."
Jose Iglesias hit a two-run homer and Miguel Cabrera was 0-for-4. The top five hitters for Detroit finished 3-for-20 in defeat. The Tigers are 2-4 on a nine- game road trip and 5 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland for the division lead.
Chicago's tumultuous 10-game road trip came to an end with Sunday's 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles in the finale of a four-game set. The White Sox lost the first nine tests on the trek before prevailing at Camden Yards, where Andre Rienzo delivered 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball.
Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer and Dayan Viciedo added two hits and an RBI.
"Nobody likes losing so I don't know if it takes anything off your back because our record still stinks," said Chicago manager Robin Ventura. "You just go and play for today and do the things you need to do to win games."
Ventura's club is back in the Windy City to start a 10-game homestand versus Detroit, Cleveland and Minnesota.
The White Sox have lost eight of 13 matchups with Detroit this season.