If you’re a Tigers fan, and you’re wondering whether the Chicago White Sox will continue their current slide, just know that things aren’t looking any easier for them as we move into the weekend.
Chicago, of course, has been pitiful of late. Eight days ago they were three games up in the American League Central and, according to Cool Standings, had an 83% chance of winning the division (a 17% chance for the Tigers). Unfortunately for our Chicago brethren (but fortunately for us), they went on to win just one of their next eight games and now sit one game back of Detroit. Their division winning odds have dropped to 27.4% (and the Tigers have seen a corresponding jump up to 72.6%). Chicago’s nightmare stretch included two losses to Kansas City, three losses to Los Angeles, and two losses – plus their lone win – against Cleveland.
The White Sox now hold a 10-14 September record and a 35-35 record since the All-Star Break. They haven’t had a month in which they’ve finished with a better record than Detroit since May. In fact, May was the only month this year in which they had outperformed the Tigers at all. The Tigers, for their part, boast a 13-11 September record (.542, or an 88 win pace), and have been a very good 39-30 since the break (.565, or a 91 win pace). One team has played like a potential playoff team down the stretch, and one team hasn’t.
Getting back to this weekend’s matchup, the White Sox host the Tampa Bay Rays for a four game set starting tonight. The Rays are in must-win mode themselves – they’re three games back of the second Wild Card spot – so they’ll be giving Chicago their best effort in hopes that they can fend off the Angels and hunt down the Athletics to earn a postseason berth.
The Rays aren’t known as an offensive juggernaut – they’re 10th in the AL in runs scored and 11th in OPS – but they can pitch and field with the best of them. Tampa Bay leads the American League in runs allowed by 27 over the second place Athletics, and they’re more than 50 runs (57 to be exact) better than the third ranked Seattle Mariners. And the best part of all is that the Rays have their four best starting pitchers lined up for this series – James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, and David Price, who have combined for a 3.31 ERA this year. Those four starters, combined with the only sub-3.00 ERA bullpen in the American League (Remember Fernando Rodney? He has a 0.63 ERA.), means that run scoring will be difficult to come by for the Sox.
Of course, the Tigers have their own troubles to worry about. After finishing up with Kansas City this afternoon, they’ll travel TO Minnesota and then TO Kansas City to finish up the year. Wins against the Twins and Royals haven’t been as automatic as we would have liked (at least that’s the narrative we spin, they’re actually 18-11 versus those two teams which is a .621 percentage), and games on the road have certainly been a struggle this year (34-41 overall away from Comerica Park) so continuing to hope on the White Sox to falter doesn’t look like a sound strategy (but we’ll certainly take it if they do).