(SportsNetwork.com) - Detroit's Max Scherzer won the American League's Cy Young Award last season. Chicago's Chris Sale is stating his case to be this year's winner. The two face off on Thursday in the conclusion of what is now a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field.
Scherzer at times this season has been every bit as dominant as he was a year ago when he went 21-3. It hasn't been lately, though. Although, he is 7-2 on the season, he has pitched to a 3.38 ERA, but has given up at least four runs in his last four starts.
His strikeout-per-nine-innings rate (10.3) is higher than last year (10.1) but he's falling behind in hits-per-nine (8.5 vs. 6.4) and walks-per-nine (2.6 vs. 2.4).
"He doesn't walk a ton of guys," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "When he gets in trouble, it just seems that he misses over the middle and they get to the ball, and they get a hit here, a hit there and it costs him a run. But overall, he's good. I'm not concerned about him. You could slice up the stats any way you want, but he's still one of the best in the game."
Sale, on the other hand, has been absolutely magnificent and has yet to give up more than four earned runs in any of his eight starts. In fact, since returning from the disabled list because of a strained flexor muscle, he's posted a 1.80 ERA and has held the opposition to a .119 batting average in four starts.
He is 5-0 on the year with a 2.06 ERA.
"He just goes and pitches," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "He's a high intensity guy, a lot of emotion. He separates it pretty good."
Sale has also been nearly unhittable at home, where he is 2-0 with a 0.72 over his last four starts.
Chicago continued to creep up on the Tigers in the American League Central on Wednesday, as Conor Gillaspie's two-run double highlighted a big sixth inning and the White Sox grabbed an 8-2 victory.
Gordon Beckham had a two-run single in the inning, and Jose Abreu hit a home run earlier in the game and went 3-for-4 with two runs scored for the White Sox, who have won the first two games of this series and now trail the Tigers by just 2 1/2 games in the division.
"We show up to play and we don't expect everything," said Beckham. "We don't expect to win the division tomorrow, but we just want to do our thing and we're getting some wins right now."
John Danks (5-5) gave up two runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts over seven innings to win his second straight start.
Rajai Davis and Torii Hunter each drove in a run for the Tigers, who have lost three straight and eight of their last 10.
Justin Verlander (6-6) was tagged for seven runs on eight hits in just 5 2/3 innings to lose his second straight start.
"There's nothing in particular that concerns me with Justin that I can tell you, but we've got to find a way to fix him," said Ausmus.
Detroit has split eight head-to-head meetings with Chicago this season.