Chris Sale tamed the Detroit Tigers in 2013

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After struggling against the White Sox's biggest divisional rival last season, the tables have turned

If Chris Sale had one blemish on his outstanding 2012 season, it was his inability to beat the Tigers. He started against Detroit three times, and he lost all three.

Date Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit GSc
2012-04-15 L 2-5 GS-5 ,L 5.0 5 3 3 2 5 1 102 48
2012-07-21 L 1-7 GS-7 ,L 7.0 7 5 5 4 6 1 90 45
2012-09-02 L 2-4 GS-6 ,L 6.0 6 4 4 4 7 2 106 47

At least as far as the pitcher loss is defined, anyway. It's too strong to call it his failure alone, considering the White Sox offense scored but five runs over three starts. Pitching to his season ERA against the Tigers wouldn't have guaranteed difference.

But it's fair to say he couldn't quite rise to the occasion the way everybody hoped. The first start can be written off, because that accounted for half of his career sample size as a starter. In the other two, he had established himself as an All-Star caliber starter, and Robin Ventura rearranged his rotation to make sure he had Sale for Detroit series.

Sale didn't pitch terribly in any game, but the Tigers did break him in those last two starts. On July 21, it was Brennan Boesch's three-run homer with two outs. On Sept. 2, Delmon Young hit a slider off his shoetops for a three-run shot of his own. You couldn't draw any sweeping conclusions from those three games, but they were unfortunate, considering each loss hurt double.

Likewise, it's unfortunate that Sale's Tiger troubles weren't the only problem the 2013 had to solve, because they'd be printing playoff tickets this time around.

Sale took five turns against Detroit in 2013, and he turned the tables. In fact, he seemed to gain effectiveness each time around, even if odd things piled up along the way:

Rk Date Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit GSc
1 2013-07-11 W 6-3 GS-7 ,W 6.2 10 3 3 2 8 2 124 48
2 2013-07-22 L 3-7 GS-8 ,L 8.0 7 4 2 3 11 1 119 64
3 2013-08-12 W 6-2 CG 9 ,W 9.0 9 2 2 0 6 1 109 67
4 2013-09-09 W 5-1 GS-8 ,W 8.0 4 1 1 1 8 1 114 77
5 2013-09-21 L 6-7 GS-8 7.2 4 0 0 1 7 0 97 77

He outpitched Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello in their head-to-head matchups, and went 1-1 against Max Scherzer, which seems like the way it should be considering the similarities in their stats.

Add it all up, and you'll see a remarkable turnaround:

W-L ERA IP H HR BB K
2012 0-3 6.00 18 18 4 10 18
2013 3-1 1.83 39.1 34 5 7 40

(He should be 4-1, but apparently his teammates resent him for showing off or something.)

Granted, Sale's problems shifted over to the Cleveland Indians, but that could very well be a one-year fluke. After all, he had no such issues with the Indians last year, and he figured out how to flip his fortunes against Detroit year over year. Unlike last season, there's no real tragedy associated with unfavorable divisional clustering. Reverse his record against the Tribe, and the Sox have 66 wins instead of 62, so I'm guessing these struggles will be easier to swallow.

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