Who's It Gonna Be: Tigers or Sox?
Will they be able to hold the lead through October 3rd?
The Tigers are coming off of a huge 4-game sweep of the Royals where their pitching was top-notch (albeit against the Royals) while the White Sox have been in an untimely slump, losing three series in a row and 8 of their last 10. The Tigers finish their season with five road games (2 at Minnesota and 3 at Kansas City) while the Sox host Tampa Bay for 2 more games, then travel to Cleveland for 3.
The White Sox have had a great bounce-back season so far, quickly recovering from the Ozzie Guillen departure and transitioning into a new era of baseball with Robin Ventura. The new coach has made immediate improvements. The 2011 team won 79 games and the 2012 team is currently at 83 and counting.
Alex Rios has raised his average about 70 points, Adam Dunn has been able to shake off his colossal disappointment of 11 home runs last year to hit over 40 for only the second time in his career, AJ Pierzynski has set a new career-high in home runs, nearly doubling his past season-high, and former Cy-Young winner Jake Peavy has put together his best season since probably 2008. All in all, the Sox weren’t really expected to do too much of anything this year, and they have already exceeded the expectations of many. The 2005 team lacked the big-name power of a lot of other competitors but rode stellar pitching and timely hitting all the way to a World Series title. Maybe this year’s team could do the same?
Detroit is almost every bit Chicago’s opposite. Expectations were as high as ever for the Tigers this year, and it’s been an up-and-down season all around, to put things lightly. Adding Prince Fielder to a team that already had two superstars in Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander prompted a lot of discussion that the AL Central race was decided before the season even started. But the Tigers have struggled to get hitting from other spots in the lineup and have had inconsistent pitching behind Verlander, Fister, and Scherzer all season, leading to the battle with Chicago.
If the Rangers and Yankees hold off their divisions along with the Tigers, then we’re going to see one of the most star-studded AL Playoff races in recent memory. Then if the Angels sneak into the wildcard spot, we’re talking about a full all-star lineup you can create from just those four teams alone, pitching included. But if the Sox make up the game and get back on top, they’ll have that chip on their shoulder that sometimes goes a long way, a team without the big names and high expectations the other teams have, and sometimes, that’s the team that ends up with the hardware when it’s all said and done.