The Chicago White Sox are going on a long road trip with hopes of maintaining control of the AL Central.
The Detroit Tigers could cause them to lose it very quickly.
The Tigers have a chance to cut more than half their deficit behind the first-place White Sox in this three-game set, which begins Friday with Detroit’s offense on a roll and Chicago’s pitching staff looking vulnerable.
“I don’t want to put pressure on ourselves, but we have to. We can’t deny it,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told his team’s official Web site. “This road trip can be how the summer’s going to be for us. It can be a real fun one or a miserable one.”
Chicago (57-43) enters this 10-game road swing 2 1/2 games ahead of second-place Minnesota, which hosts four games against the White Sox starting Monday, and 5 1/2 up on third-place Detroit (52-49).
“Certainly there is a sense of urgency playing teams in our division, and we have to come out and play some great ball,” Chicago reliever Scott Linebrink said.
The White Sox’s pitchers, however, have been far from great lately.
In the last three series, they have a 6.61 ERA with 34 walks in 79 innings while allowing 11 home runs. Those nine games have seen Chicago’s bullpen go 1-2 with a 7.06 ERA and a .305 opponents’ batting average.
The White Sox staff won’t get a break against the Tigers, who have posted six straight games with at least 10 hits and have scored 48 runs in the last five. They’ve averaged 7.1 runs and 11.3 hits in their last 13 games while totaling 54 extra-base hits, including 22 homers.
Miguel Cabrera has 14 RBIs over his last five games while batting .417 (10-for-24). Magglio Ordonez went 8-for-15 in this week’s three-game sweep of Kansas City and has driven in seven runs over his last four games.
“When Magglio and Cabrera are like that and locked in, they can be RBI machines,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “No question about it, they produce runs.”
Detroit, which opened the season 0-7, has won four straight and is a season-high three games above .500.
“All I’m hoping for is to somehow be playing for something when September comes along,” Leyland told his team’s official Web site. “If we’re doing that, I’ll be happy.”
His red-hot lineup looks to avoid losing to Gavin Floyd (10-6, 3.52 ERA) for the third time in as many tries this season.
Floyd won at Detroit in his season debut, going six solid innings in a 5-3 victory April 5, and held the Tigers to one hit in 7 1-3 innings of a 7-0 win one week later in Chicago.
The right-hander has lost his last two starts but pitched well Saturday as he gave up three runs - one earned - and four hits in six innings in a 9-1 defeat to Kansas City. Floyd had his worst start of the season in his previous outing, giving up six runs and seven walks in 2 2-3 innings of a 7-2 loss at Texas on July 11.
That outing extended his struggles on the road, where he’s 3-4 with a 5.40 ERA in eight starts. Floyd, though, is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA in his last five starts versus Detroit.
The Tigers counter with Nate Robertson (6-8, 5.69). The left-hander is 0-2 in five starts since winning at San Diego on June 21, and he’s given up at least five runs in three of his four outings this month.
He pitched a season-low 2 1-3 innings Saturday and was charged with a season-high seven runs in an 11-10, 10-inning loss at Baltimore.
Robertson last faced Chicago on June 10 and got the win, allowing three runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-4 victory. He is 6-6 with a 5.02 ERA in 18 starts against the White Sox.