The first-place White Sox picked up a much-needed win in the first game of their season-series-concluding four-game set at home against the second place Tigers on Monday night. By taking the first game of the series 6-1, the ChiSox expanded their AL Central lead to three games, meaning Detroit can do no better than a tie for first place even if it sweeps the remainder of the series. That’s important because the Tigers have a far easier schedule over the remainder of the season. They play their final 13 games against the Twins and Royals and, after this series, their only remaining games against a winning team are a three-game set at home against the A’s next week. The White Sox, meanwhile, have to travel to Anaheim to play three against the Angels and their penultimate series of the season is a four-game set against the Rays.
Given that, it would behoove the White Sox to pick up at least one more game in this series to keep the Tigers in second place. Fortunately for Chicago, the way Detroit is playing right now, that doesn’t seem like a particularly difficult task. The Tigers have now lost four in a row and six of their last seven and have averaged just 2.4 runs per game over those seven contests. On Monday they scored just once, committed three errors in the field, made two unnecessary outs on the bases and saw Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder fail in their first at-bats with a runner in scoring position since last Wednesday, hitting into a double play and striking out, respectively.
Rookie White Sox starter Jose Quintana, making his first career appearance against the Tigers, bounced back from two disastrous starts and a rough second inning, which yielded the Tigers' only run of the game via consecutive singles by Delmon Young and Jhonny Peralta, to turn in a gem, striking out seven, the second-highest total of his young career, in 7 2/3 innings. Yet, given their sloppy play, one wonders how much of that performance was Quintana and how much was Detroit's sleepwalking through the game. The Tigers played in Anaheim on Sunday and flew to Chicago without a day off for this game, and while they did have an off day on the way to Anaheim on Thursday, they have lost their last seven road games, three of them to the Royals two weeks ago.
As it was, Rick Porcello nearly made that lone second-inning run -- the first the Tigers scored in his support since August 12 and the first lead for the team since last Wednesday -- stand up. Porcello cruised through the first five frames allowing just two doubles and a walk while showing nasty sink on his low-90s two-seamer and getting his four-seemer into the mid-90s, but he came undone in the sixth when he gave up back-to-back home runs to Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski, the former a three-run shot that was all the offense Chicago would need and the latter a solo blast. A two-run homer by Gordon Beckham off Octavio Dotel in the eighth added the final two runs as all six Pale Hose tallies came in on the long ball.
The series continues on Tuesday night with Doug Fister taking on Jake Peavy. Neither was especially sharp when they faced off in Detroit on August 31, but Delmon Young came through with a big three-run double off White Sox lefty Matt Thornton in the seventh and the Tigers won that game 7-4. That was back when they were still scoring runs.
The other big game of the night, between the wild card-contending A’s and Angels out in Anaheim, had a similar result, with the first-place A’s downing the challenging Angels to extend their lead over Anaheim to 3 1/2 games, thereby preventing the Halos from erasing Oakland’s advantage over the next three games. That loss also dropped the Angels a half game behind the Rays into fourth place in the wild-card race, a game and a half behind the second-place Orioles, who are sitting in the AL’s final playoff spot.
The A’s won 3-1 behind a strong, seven-inning outing from rookie starter Jarrod Parker, who has now held the Angels to three runs over 14 innings over his last two starts. In some respects, Angels starter Dan Haren was even better. Haren allowed just four baserunners before receiving an early hook from Mike Scioscia after just 76 pitches, but three of those hits led directly runs, starting with Coco Crisp’s triple on the first pitch of the game and followed, after 12 straight outs, by solo home runs by Brandon Moss in the fifth and Cliff Pennington in the sixth. The series continues on Tuesday with a matchup of replacement starters as freshly recalled rookie Dan Straily makes his fourth career start as Brandon McCarthy’s replacement for the A’s while Jerome Williams draws the nod for the Angels as a spot starter for Jered Weaver.
-- By Cliff Corcoran