Series preview: White Sox vs. Tigers

Here’s a breakdown of the four-game game series between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers as the race for the American League Central nears the finish line:

Last chance at each other: This week’s series at U.S. Cellular Field will be the last time the White Sox and Tigers meet this season. In other words, it’s their last opportunities to directly impact the Central standings. Heading into Monday, the White Sox hold a two-game lead over the Tigers with both teams having 23 remaining games.

Tigers own the Sox: The Tigers arrive into Chicago with a seven-game winning streak over the White Sox. It’s the longest winning streak the Tigers have had over the White Sox since defeating them nine straight times from Sept. 7, 2010 to April 24, 2011. The Tigers are also 10-4 in this season’s series.

The White Sox have fared better at home against the Tigers this season. The White Sox are 3-2 at U.S. Cellular Field against them this year.

Not the hottest teams in baseball: The Tigers and White Sox both have had chances to gain significant ground on the other in recent weeks, but have failed to do so.

Since winning six consecutive games from Aug. 20-26, the White Sox have dropped nine of their past 13 games. They’re coming off a home series against the Kansas City Royals in which they lost two out of three games.

As for the Tigers, they’re 4-8 in their last 12 games. They were swept by the Royals and the Los Angeles Angels and dropped two games to the Cleveland Indians. Their only saving grace was sweeping the White Sox.

Offensive problems: The Tigers’ struggles recently have been mostly due to their lack of offense. They’ve scored two runs or less in seven of their last eight losses.

In their losses to the Angels over the weekend, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Delmon Young were a combined 5 for 29 with one RBI. In September, the Tigers are batting.217, which ranks 29th in baseball.

Pitching problems: On the other hand, the White Sox’s difficulty has been pitching as of late. They’ve allowed five or more runs in six of their last seven losses, including an 18-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

The White Sox rank 30th in ERA (5.58) and opponent on-base percentage (.372) and 29th in walks (36) in September.

White Sox starters Jose Quintana and Francisco Liriano have accounted for much of the troubles. Quintana has allowed 12 runs in five innings over his last two starts. Liriano hasn’t pitched more than five innings in his last three starts and has allowed 10 runs and 15 walks in those three games. Both are scheduled to start against the Tigers.

Lack of power: The White Sox were crushing the ball out of the ballpark on a daily basis in August. They led baseball with 45 home runs in the month.

In September, their power numbers have dropped off so far. They have 10 home runs in the month.

Part of the problem has been Adam Dunn’s absence and struggles. He’s missed six of the team’s last nine games due to a strained oblique. He also hasn’t hit a home run since Aug. 24 and has been stuck on 38 for the season. Dunn hit seven home runs in August.

Marquee matchup No. 2: White Sox starter Chris Sale (16-6, 2.88 ERA, 168 strikeouts) will face Tigers starter Justin Verlander (13-8, 2.91 ERA, 212 strikeouts) on Thursday for the second time in September.

Verlander and the Tigers won the first round. Verlander allowed four hits, one run, two walks and struck out 11 in eight innings. Sale gave up six hits, four runs, four walks and struck out seven in six innings.

Second home for Young: Tigers designated hitter Delmon Young enjoys playing against the White Sox and especially at U.S. Cellular Field.

Young enters Monday’s game hitting .359 (47 of 131) with 10 doubles, seven home runs and 25 RBIs in 36 games at U.S. Cellular Field. He’s also five hits and seven RBIs against the White Sox when they last met in Detroit.