CHICAGO -- As significant as the Chicago White Sox's upcoming four-game series against the Detroit Tigers is, Sox manager Robin Ventura said it’s just as important for players to not let their guard down once the Tigers leave town.
The Sox hold a two-game lead over the Tigers in the American League Central, and while the division title will be won by one of them, the Sox will still have 19 more games left in the season. Ventura doesn’t want his club to get swept up in the hype.
“Regardless of what happens in the series, one bad week after that and you're back in the same situation or worse,” Ventura said. “They're important, everybody knows that, but it's not the end of the season. You still have to play well for the end of the season. Those teams are just as dangerous as other teams. But it's fun. That's the part of it, it's an exciting series. I think in spring training, if we had the option, someone asked you if wanted to have meaningful games in September with Detroit you'd take it. That's part of it. Guys are playing for something. They're not just playing out the season.”
Those other teams include another three-game series against the Kansas City Royals, who are 10-5 against the Sox this season.
The Tigers have fared well against the Sox this season, having won 10 of 14 games, but the early-season AL Central favorites have been inconsistent against other teams. They were swept by the Royals at the end of August, lost two of three against the Cleveland Indians earlier this month and enter the series against the Sox after being swept by the Los Angeles Angels. Still, Detroit has won seven straight against the Sox.
“Detroit has a great team,” Sox starter Jake Peavy said. “It’s the bottom line. They don’t have many holes at all. Great starting pitching. [Max] Scherzer and [Justin] Verlander are as good as anybody in the game. That lineup speaks for itself. It’s so dangerous all the way through. Then the back end of that bullpen is two of the best late-inning guys. Great team. It has been surprising that after they swept us, things haven’t went their way. But that’s just baseball.”
The Sox, who are hitting .227 and own a 5.02 ERA against Detroit this season, will look to rookie Jose Quintana to start the series off on the right note. The rookie has struggled through his past three starts, failing to get out of the second inning in his most recent start. Quintana has yet to face Detroit this season. He’ll be followed by Peavy on Tuesday with Francisco Liriano scheduled for Wednesday and Chris Sale slated to oppose Verlander on Thursday. Sox starters have made four quality starts in the past six games against the Tigers.
“We expect from our starters all the time -- no matter if you’re a rookie or a veteran -- we expect you to go out there and give us a chance to win,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “This is a pennant race and we’re in it and we’re trying to win it. We need those guys. They’re the first line of defense. That’s why they get the big bucks because they’re paid to go out there and take the bulk of the responsibility, which is six, seven and then more, hopefully, innings each game to give us a chance to win.”