They now turn their attention to trying to capture a series from the defending World Series champions for the first time this year when they send Kenny Rogers to the mound on Thursday afternoon in the finale of a three-game set at Comerica Park.
Detroit (63-21) lost its first four home games this year against Chicago (58-35) before posting a 5-2 victory on Wednesday to even this series at a game apiece. Craig Monroe hit the Tigers’ first grand slam of the year to cap a five-run rally in the sixth inning.
“It’s by far the biggest one I’ve ever hit,” Monroe said. “You can’t describe it—the atmosphere, who we’re playing. We downplay it and talk about it just being another series, but we know we’re chasing them. They’re the defending champions.”
The Tigers improved to 2-6 this year against the White Sox and extended their lead in the AL Central to 4 1/2 games over the champions.
“We’re not keeping track of how many wins we have against them,” Monroe said. “We just know we’re up 4 1/2 games.”
Rogers (11-3, 4.10 ERA) is 4-0 with a 4.56 ERA in his last eight starts. The Tigers have won his last seven outings, a run that started when he allowed one run and five hits over seven innings in a 6-2 victory over the White Sox on June 8.
The veteran left-hander has failed to get past the sixth inning in his last four starts, though, going 1-0 with an 8.84 ERA. He’s 4-1 with a 3.22 ERA in eight home starts this year.
“If we win, it is a lift for us,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “It’s not do or die, but it is important for whoever wins. Hopefully, Kenny Rogers shows up the way he has shown up the last few times, and we can take advantage.”
Rogers is 4-0 with a 3.08 ERA in his last four outings against the White Sox since his last loss against them on May 16, 2002.
Chicago has faced more left-handed starters than any team in the majors and is 21-17 in those contests.
White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye, who is batting .400 against left-handers this season, is just 6-for-31 in his career against Rogers.
First baseman Paul Konerko went 0-for-4 in Wednesday’s loss, ending a 15-game hitting streak against Detroit in which the slugger batted .446 (25-for-56) with seven homers and 17 RBIs.
Jose Contreras (9-1, 3.48) makes his first start for Chicago since his franchise-record 17-game winning streak came to an end. Contreras’ streak— which spanned 25 regular-season starts—ended when he gave up four runs and seven hits over seven-plus innings in a 6-5 loss at the New York Yankees on Friday.
“I would’ve liked the streak to continue but I wasn’t really thinking about it,” Contreras said through an interpreter. “I felt very good today. I had all my pitches going and I felt strong.”
The right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA in his last four starts against the Tigers, including 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two outings this year. He’s 7-2 with a 3.36 ERA in 13 career starts against Detroit—the most wins in his career against any team.