Action in the American League Central heats up as the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers finish up a three-game set this afternoon at Comerica Park.
The teams have split the first two contests, with the Sox posting a 3-2 triumph on Saturday after bowing in the opener, 5-4, the day before. As a result, the Tigers are now 1 1/2 games behind Cleveland for first place in the division, while Chicago sits just two games out.
Having scored just one run through the first eight innings on Saturday, the White Sox needed a boost to get them over the hump and they got it from Adam Dunn who connected on a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning as the team snapped a three-game slide.
"We needed to win this game today," noted Dunn after delivering his eighth home run of the season. "Gavin (Floyd) pitched great and kept us in the game the whole time. It's nice that we were able to get the runs and pull it out."
Also going deep for the visitors was Paul Konerko who connected on his six home run of 2012.
Floyd made it through seven innings for the Sox, allowing just two runs on seven hits and striking out six, leaving reliever Nate Jones to grab the win and Addison Reed to notch his first save of the campaign.
Detroit starter Max Scherzer did not disappoint either, permitting just a single run on four hits and fanning nine over seven innings of work. Jose Valverde, who was a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities a season ago, was saddled with the loss, his first of the season, as he surrendered Dunn's long ball.
"He's struggling a little bit, obviously, right now," manager Jim Leyland said of Valverde. "Maybe I got to get him out there a little bit more. He threw the ball down right into the groove of the swing and Dunn hit it. He's just struggling a bit right now and that can happen to closers from time to time."
Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks both posted a pair of hits and an RBI in the setback.
Instead of making his first start of the season on Monday, Dylan Axelrod has been moved up in the Chicago rotation and will be taking the spot previously held by Chris Sale for the time being. Most recently the right-hander worked his way through one inning against Cleveland on Thursday.
Before being called up by the big club, Axelrod had registered 26 strikeouts, against just four walks, in 25 innings at Triple-A.
As for the Tigers, they plan on handing the ball to Rick Porcello in hopes that the New Jersey native can back up his victory over Kansas City earlier in the week with another strong outing. Versus the Royals the 23-year old hurler allowed three runs on seven hits, striking out three, over eight innings of action in order to snap a two-game slide.
Now in his fourth year in the majors, Porcello has a career mark of 3-4 with a 6.02 ERA in eight all-time appearances against the White Sox.
Even though the White Sox are currently one game below .500 the team has one of the top pitching staffs in the majors, ranking first in the American League as they allow opponents to hit just .220 against them. The squad has issued just 71 bases-on-balls to this point, third-fewest in the league.
Detroit has been somewhat stingy in giving up walks as well, that staff handing out just 78, but the larger problem for the Tigers is that opposing batters are hitting .268 against them, the fifth-highest average in the AL entering play on Sunday.