Not many would have predicted that the Tigers and White Sox would be tied for the AL Central lead with one month to go prior to the season—I know I certainly didn’t. But here they are, in a flat-footed tie at 72-61 with 29 games to go.
As we look to the coming month that will decide the division, both clubs have similar schedules down the stretch. Each face the Indians and Twins six more times, the Angels three times in Anaheim and the Tigers have just one fewer game with the Royals (six versus seven). Both also have home series against pesky Wild Card contenders with Detroit facing Oakland while Chicago takes on Tampa Bay late in the month.
With almost identical paths to October, the crucial four-game series in Chicago starting a week from today looms even larger. The Tigers have already clinched the season series between the two with a 10-4 record including two sweeps in Detroit. But while the Tigers absolutely own the Sox in the Motor City these days, winning 12 of the last 13 there, the Sox have a one-game advantage at home this year taking three of five back in April and May.
Both teams’ rotations will look a bit different than those that faced each other this past Spring. In those five games, we saw Rick Porcello defeat Chris Sale and Max Scherzer and Jake Peavy split two. The other two Sox’ victories featured the now injured John Danks and Gavin Floyd versus Drew Smyly, who is no longer a regular starter, and Adam Wilk, who hasn’t seen any major league action since April.
Noticeably abscent from those previous match-ups in the Windy City is Justin Verlander, whom the White Sox were very fortunate to have missed at that point, but will not experience that luxury this time around. Verlander has a sparkling 1.69 ERA versus the Sox this year with a miniscule .151 BAA and 17 Ks over 16 innings. He was equally as dominant last season at U.S. Cellular going 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA which I happened to be fortunate to witness firsthand.
All prognostications aside, it will be an absolute blast watching the race wind down to a climax over the next four weeks. Buckle up for a fun ride!