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Tigers look to slow down White Sox Tuesday
By: Freddy Wander - StatFox
Published: 4/22/2014  at  3:48:00 AM
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First pitch: Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Line: Detroit -140, Chicago +130, Total: 7

An early AL Central battle heats up on Tuesday night as the Tigers look to even their four-game set against the White Sox.

Chicago has been playing some solid baseball this season despite having a team that went just 65-99 (.389) in 2013. The club has not played very well in its past two series though, losing 4-of-6 games and being outscored 27-8 in four losses to Boston and Texas. The White Sox bounced back on Sunday with a huge 16-2 victory over the Rangers, snapping their four-game skid as they recorded eight extra-base hits (3 HR) and yielded just two hits. They followed that win up with a 3-1 victory over the Tigers on Monday behind the strong effort of starter John Danks, who allowed just one run in six innings of work. First Baseman Jose Abreu has provided much of the offense over their last two wins, going 5-for-9 with a home run, four RBI and three runs. The Tigers took 2-of-3 games against the Angels over the weekend while allowing Los Angeles to score only three runs combined over the final two contests. They did manage to get nine hits in Monday’s loss, but went a horrendous 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Hoping to put Chicago over .500 with a win will be LHP Charlie Leesman (0-2, 1.59 ERA in Triple-A this season) who is starting just his second career game. On the other side of the diamond, former Cy Young Award winner RHP Justin Verlander (2-1, 2.08 ERA) will toe the rubber for Detroit. So far on the year, the White Sox have gone 4-6 on the road, while the Tigers have started 7-4 at Comerica Park in 2014. This series has been a cakewalk for Detroit recently, as the team is 24-14 against Chicago since the start of 2012 while going a very impressive 14-5 at home. One trend favoring the White Sox favor is that the Tigers are just 1-9 in the past two seasons in Verlander’s starts after he allowed no earned runs in his previous outing. On the other hand, Chicago is just 44-72 (.379) in night games over the same timeframe.

Charlie Leesman is a virtual unknown in the MLB community, as he has pitched in just eight games (1 start) at the major-league level so far. In those games, he has thrown 15.1 innings with a 7.04 ERA and 2.09 WHIP, while allowing two home runs and tallying just 13 strikeouts compared to 16 walks. He has done well in the high minors though, starting 45 games at Triple-A since the start of 2012 while going 16-15 with a tremendous 2.92 ERA. Leesman will need to pitch carefully when facing OF Torii Hunter (.264) as he has gone 4-for-8 (1 run, 1 SB) over his past two games, while OF Austin Jackson (.309) leads the team in batting average. Superstar and two-time MVP, 1B Miguel Cabrera, has yet to find his rhythm this year as he is hitting just .206 with 1 HR and 7 RBI over his first 16 games. If Leesman is not able to go deep into the game, this could spell even more trouble for the White Sox since their bullpen is 3-6 with a 5.48 ERA, and has gone just 2-for-6 in save opportunities. Closer Matt Lindstrom (3.00 ERA, 2 saves) earned the save on Monday night and has not given up an earned run (2 unearned runs) over his past six outings, but did blow two saves in that time.

Justin Verlander is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he is at it again this season, allowing just 10 runs (6 earned) over his first 26 innings on the mound. He’s allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his starts on the year while not giving up a home run, and has 15 strikeouts over his past 12 frames after starting the year with just 5 K's in his first 14 innings. Verlander has actually not done too well when facing the White Sox over his 29 career starts, going 14-12 (15-14 team record) with a 4.21 ERA (1.19 WHIP) and has been absolutely pounded in his past two outings, both losses. He allowed 23 combined hits (3 HR) in those two starts, which led to 12 runs, while striking out just seven in 13 innings. The players on Chicago's roster have not hit for much of an average against Verlander, but DH Adam Dunn (.200, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 11 K’s), OF Alejandro De Aza (.190, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 8 K’s) and C Tyler Flowers (.300, 2 HR, 2 RBI) have all hit him for power. SS Alexei Ramirez (.241, 1 HR), OF Dayan Viciedo (.200, 1 HR) and 2B Gordon Beckham (.194, 1 HR, 7 K’s) also have a home run in their career against the righty. The Tigers' bullpen has pitched to a 4-1 record with a 4.69 ERA and seven homers allowed so far in 48 IP this season while getting a save in 4-of-6 opportunities. Joe Nathan (7.04 ERA, 3 saves) was acquired in the offseason to shut down the end of games for the Detroit pitching staff, but has already blown two of his five save chances and has surrendered two home runs in just 7.2 frames.

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