The Detroit Tigers will aim for a three-game sweep when they square off against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Detroit (35-37) has equaled a season high with a four-game winning streak and will look to climb within one game of .500 for the first time since April 25. The Tigers have outscored opponents 19-11 during their streak.
Meanwhile Kyle Lauletta Color Rush Jersey
, Chicago (24-45) has dropped three in a row but remains at .500 in June.
The head-to-head matchup between the American League Central rivals has been wildly lopsided this season. Detroit has won seven of eight games against Chicago, including five straight meetings in the White Sox’s park.
Tigers left-hander Blaine Hardy (2-1, 3.55 ERA) will try to keep the winning streak alive. The 31-year-old has walked nine and struck out 27 in 38 innings this season. This will be his 11th game and seventh start.
In 19 games (one start) against the White Sox, Hardy is 2-0 with a 3.91 ERA. He is coming off a quality start against the Minnesota Twins in which he allowed two runs and three hits in six innings.
Hardy credited his cutter-slider hybrid pitch for much of his recent success.
“I always go off feel,” Hardy told the Detroit News. “I don’t want to say that pitch kept them off balance, but every time I threw it, even if they were looking for it, it wasn’t a good swing. I don’t have a power fastball, so I might as well use my cutter as my fastball.”
White Sox right-hander James Shields (2-7, 4.63) once possessed a power fastball, but at age 36 he has transformed into a more strategic pitcher. He has enjoyed more success — if not more victories — this season as his WHIP has dropped from 1.44 to 1.23 from 2017 to 2018.
Shields is 9-9 with a 4.44 ERA in 27 career starts against the Tigers. A victory on Sunday would give the veteran double-digit wins against four teams. He has 12 wins against the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays to go along with 11 wins against the Baltimore Orioles.
One hitter Shields will have to be careful around is Nicholas Castellanos, who slugged two home runs for the Tigers in Saturday’s 7-5 win. Castellanos drove in five runs and is hitting .310 with eight homers and 39 RBIs this season.
The White Sox are led at the plate by Jose Abreu, who is hitting .284 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs. He is a strong candidate to land his second All-Star Game appearance this summer.
Chicago shortstop Tim Anderson said he and his teammates were not discouraged despite their record.
“The confidence is always going to be high Chris Herndon Color Rush Jersey
, the mood is always going to be great whether we win, lose or draw,” Anderson said. “We try not to get down on ourselves, but we try to stay within ourselves and not do too much. We approach the game every day in the same way.”
The White Sox are 12-23 at home this season. The Tigers are 12-20 on the road.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays were a wobbly 34-40 on June 20, but have pitched their way back to .500 mostly without true starting pitchers.
On Saturday, five relievers combined to outduel Justin Verlander in a 5-2 victory, and as the series wraps up Sunday, the Rays are on even footing with the pitching-dominant Houston Astros on the mound.
“It’s pretty remarkable what they’ve strung together here as of late, and today was no different,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said after Saturday’s win.
The Rays turn to their best starter of the first half in Blake Snell, who looks to be a first-time All-Star with a 10-4 record and a 2.31 ERA.
Snell has taken only one loss in his last eight starts, and was superb against the Astros on June 19 Nathan Shepherd Color Rush Jersey
, throwing seven innings and holding a potent lineup to one run and three hits in a 2-1 victory. He managed to survive seven walks, including three in one scoreless inning, getting key double plays to work his way out of predicaments.
In his last seven starts, Snell has a 1.27 ERA. He is 1-1 with a 5.21 ERA in four career starts against Houston.
The Rays, who have been above .500 for only three days all season, face a stiff challenge Sunday in Astros right-hander Charlie Morton.
Morton (10-1, 2.54) hopes to continue a career resurrection since coming to Houston. Before arriving, he was 46-71 in his career. Since joining the Astros, he’s 24-8 in two seasons with a career-low ERA this year and a career-best strikeout rate of 11.5 per nine innings.
Morton is 3-0 in his last four games, with three earned runs allowed in his last 19 innings and none in his last two starts. He faced the Rays on June 20 and dominated, throwing six innings and holding Tampa Bay to two hits and one unearned run. He was even better in his last start, holding Toronto scoreless in seven innings while striking out 13, one off his season and career high.
Houston manager A.J. Hinch doesn’t like playing at Tropicanaa Field Markus Wheaton Color Rush Jersey
, and his team’s bats have been stifled in all three games, including Thursday’s 1-0 victory. The Astros have lost eight games this season with Verlander starting, and in six of those losses, they’ve scored a total of five runs.
“I hate the results at this ballpark, if you look back at what we’ve done,” Hinch said. “Those are facts. It is what it is. We have another game (Sunday). We need to figure it out before then.”
Astros standout Alex Bregman said the stadium has given Houston problems, but some of the credit should go to Rays pitchers, who have given them fits this weekend.
“I don’t know if it’s the ballpark. I think they just have a good staff,” Bregman said. “They have been playing really good ball as of late.”