By virtue of dropping two of three vs. Minny, the White Sox have fallen to 39-41, 5 1⁄2 games behind the Twins. This is exactly where they were a week ago, and at some point, as we’re essentially midseason, Chicago cannot just keep punting days off of the schedule. For those interested in that sweet sweet second-place money, however, Cleveland has hit a slump and now sits just one game ahead of the White Sox.
Why did Cleveland hit a slump? Well, they ran into a very angry Detroit club, who swept the Guardians at Comerica Park. All told, however, 2022 has been a disaster for Detroit, who not long ago were basically vying for DEEP last place in the ALC with Kansas City. Those days seem in the rear-view mirror, but the Tigers remain an improbably 5 1⁄2 games behind the White Sox for third place.
As the sexy picks for the division (White Sox) and second place/wild card (Deeeeetroit basket-ball), 2022 has been an unmitigated disaster.
There aren’t any true old friends playing for Detroit right now, although it has been fun to watch the Javier Báez signing sputter out of the gate — given his current 0.3 WAR, the Tigers are paying him, in the first year of a $140 million deal, about $33.3 million per WAR.
There is a South Side presence on the coaching staff, however, with former bullpen coach Juan Nieves, assistant hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh, and catcher Josh Paul all serving staff roles under A.J. Hinch in Detroit.
Thursday, Tigers-killer Dylan Cease takes on the Tigs, a team he’s never lost to. In fact, no White Sox pitcher in history has ever started his career with more wins against a single opponent than Cease has against Detroit: 10-0 with a 1.91 ERA, 75 strikeouts and six homers in 11 career starts. This year, Cease has allowed one earned run over 10 innings against the Detroit in 2022.
Beyond the Tigers, Cease has had a magnificent season, and if there’s any pitcher the White Sox need to set the tone for this long series — where they must take three (or four) games — it’s Mustachio. (Interestingly, several Tigers have hit Cease pretty well — just not well enough to generate wins!) Facing Cease is Beau Brieske, who has never faced the Sox, and runs a 4.54 ERA out in 2022. True story, my mother wanted to name be Beau; imagine that, Beau Ballantini. Thanks for coming to my rescue, pops.
Friday night pits the hot-and-cold Lucas Giolito (4.90 ERA) vs. Tigers de facto ace Tarik Skubal (4.06). Good news for the White Sox, hitting headliners like José Abreu and Tim Anderson have feasted on Skubal in modest sample sizes. In fact, this series seems to be a good excuse for (another) Tigers-killer, TA, to break back out.
Saturday’s 1:10 p.m. game is sees Johnny Cueto shimmy to the mound vs. Garrett Hill. Hill has had just one start this year, and it was a good one (six innings, one earned run). Meanwhile, it’s starting to look more like Cueto won’t just turn back into a pumpkin, and may be a legit “comeback player” award candidate in 2022.
Sunday’s finale is another 1:10 game, and pits Michael Kopech vs. Drew Hutchison. Kopech has blown right past his MLB single-season innings high and is now well more than halfway to his (imagined, reasonable) IP limit for the entire 2022 season; get real good, quick, Davis Martin! A few poorer outings have knocked Kopech’s ERA up past 3.00, but by all stretches of the imagination he has been a wonder in 2022. However, as outlined above, he’s due for about a month vacation any time now. Without even looking up his WAR, Hutchison is the epitome of a replacement player.
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