The worst team in the majors last season is feeling good about themselves 13 games into this abbreviated 60-game schedule.
The Detroit Tigers enter their home game against the visiting Chicago White Sox on Monday with an 8-5 record. They swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game series in Pittsburgh over the weekend, capped by a 2-1 win on Sunday.
Detroit scored 28 runs during the first two games, then showed it could win with pitching and defense.
“We’re in the games now,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve got some veteran players who help keep us in games. But we’re fixing to play the White Sox and that’s a really good baseball team. You start judging where you are at when you start facing that team.”
The three-game series begins an eight-game homestand in the span of seven days for the Tigers. They step back into interleague play for a makeup doubleheader against St. Louis on Thursday, then have a three-game weekend series against another American League Central Division rival, Cleveland.
The Tigers will send Michael Fulmer to the opener against the White Sox. The right-hander likely will not go beyond three innings.
Coming off Tommy John surgery last year, Fulmer is being eased back into action. In his only appearance this season, Fulmer allowed four runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings to Kansas City on July 27.
Fulmer has started eight games against the White Sox in his career, sporting a 2-1 record with a 3.17 ERA.
He’ll be followed by left-hander Daniel Norris, who battled COVID-19 earlier this summer. In his lone outing, Norris gave up two runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings to Cincinnati on Aug. 2.
Following that outing, Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire decided to move Norris to the bullpen and place another left-hander, Tyler Alexander, into the rotation.
Dallas Keuchel will make his fourth start for the White Sox. Keuchel (2-1, 2.55 ERA) is coming off his best outing of the young season, though he took a hard-luck loss.
He gave up just one run on five hits while striking out eight in seven innings against Milwaukee, but Chicago was shut out 1-0 on Wednesday.
“Early on, I was making some good pitches down and away to the righties,” Keuchel said. “After that, that kind of opens the whole zone for me. I was fortunate to make some good pitches inside as well.”
He had an inkling that he would be effective prior to the game.
“It was probably the best I’ve felt physically coming out of the gate, even warming up,” Keuchel said. “Just kind of felt like it was coming out differently.”
Keuchel, who is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA lifetime at Comerica Park, is 4-2 with a 4.05 ERA in eight career outings, including seven starts, against the Tigers.
The White Sox have fallen to .500 (8-8) after losing four of their last five games. They dropped a rain-delayed 5-4 decision in 10 innings to Cleveland on Sunday night.
A lack of offense has been the root cause for the slide. They are averaging two runs during that stretch.
Shortstop Tim Anderson (right groin strain) could return from the injured list at some point during the series. The leading hitter in the majors last season (.335) is traveling with the team to Detroit. He is hitting .333 in seven games this season.
Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones is questionable for the series after leaving Sunday’s game early with an abdominal injury.
–Field Level Media