CHICAGO -- Like a taking a trip to the beach only to discover rip tides, or finding rain on the first day of a golf vacation, the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers will face off for the first time this season Tuesday surrounded by more disappointment than buzz.
A scheduling quirk has the American League Central rivals not meeting for the first time until days before the All-Star break, yet it was the White Sox who had at least circled the first meeting on their mental calendar.
It was supposed to be the first chance to exact some revenge for how the division slipped away last year. And it definitely figured to be a solid midseason litmus test for a White Sox club that needed to be injury-free this year and for the roster to produce at their career norms.
The White Sox have neither been healthy nor able to deliver to their potential. And while only a few weeks ago players were still pointing at 19 games against the Tigers to make amends for a slow start, nobody seems to be banging that drum now.
“It’s odd you haven’t seen them already,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You've got a lot of games in the second half, but it’s weird when you don’t see anybody in your division until the All-Star break. I didn’t make the schedule, but you just go with it.”
It’s probably oddest that a July meeting between the White Sox and Tigers has already been relegated to also-ran status. The number of White Sox players to have already hit the disabled list is in the double digits and the number of players on a down year compared to those having a year to remember are about 10-to-1.
The White Sox’s All-Stars, Chris Sale and Jesse Crain, tell the story of the season in a nutshell. In Sale’s case he has been good with not much to show for it, and in the case of Crain, the season has been one to admire, but his injury will keep him out of the All-Star Game next week at New York’s Citi Field.
Sale’s 2.78 ERA over 113 1/3 innings shows he’s pitching well, but he hasn’t picked up a victory in any of his last seven starts, despite a 3.10 ERA over that stretch.
For Crain, he was one of rare instances this season of a White Sox player giving more than the back of his baseball card suggested. He owned a 29-game scoreless streak and a 31-game streak without allowing an earned run. Not only that, at the time of his injury, he led all American League relievers with a 0.74 ERA.
The Tigers, meanwhile, aren't exactly thriving. They have the second worst winning percentage of any division leader in baseball at .552 (48-39), managing to win despite a disappointing bullpen and a season from Justin Verlander that hasn’t exactly been typically dominating.
The difference between the teams, though, is shocking. The Tigers are second in the major leagues in runs scored with 448, while the White Sox are second to last with 312. The Tigers are third in slugging percentage at .435, while the White Sox are again second to last at .377.
The pitching staffs are relatively close. The Tigers have a 3.81 team ERA compared to the White Sox’s 3.98 mark, but because of all the offense, Tigers starters have 41 victories compared to the 22 from White Sox starters.
“You know, there's times we've played bad defense, there's times when we don't get a timely hit,” Ventura said. “It's a combination of problems when you don't win games. I think this trip to Tampa, you don't really cash in on the opportunities. Some of it's their pitching, some of it's just not getting it done.”
So as the White Sox head to Detroit this time the prevailing thought is about trades that figure to be coming and not how victories can move them back into contention. Clubhouse mood is something Ventura monitors on a daily basis now.
“It's tough,” Ventura said. “I've been there as a player and it's not easy. There's worse things that could be going on. You wear it when you're here, you wear it when you go home. It's always on your mind. That's the toughest part.
“For coaches all the way down to players, even if a guy's doing well, he's still wearing it. That's the toughest part. You just try to monitor it and make sure they realize there are worse things going on than coming to the park and being a major-league baseball player.”