If the Detroit Tigers are going to continue closing the gap on the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox, they’ll likely need to find some consistency at the plate to complement their impressive pitching.
That isn’t usually a problem when Max Scherzer takes the mound.
The visiting Tigers look to back Scherzer with another strong offensive performance while the right-hander tries to continue his recent dominance Wednesday night against the White Sox.
Detroit (74-67) trails Chicago (76-65) by two games in the Central race after winning 5-3 on Tuesday to even this four-game set.
The Tigers pounded out 10 hits with two homers Tuesday, but are averaging 3.0 runs and hitting .242 during a 5-8 stretch.
The staff is doing its part during that run, compiling a 2.74 ERA while holding opponents to .232 at the plate.
“We’ve been pitching very good for a while,” manager Jim Leyland said. “(Tuesday) we did muster a few runs, it’s not like we tore the cover off the ball, but we got enough. Our pitchers were pretty darn good.”
That certainly applies to Scherzer (15-6, 3.85 ERA), who is 9-1 with a 2.61 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 86 1-3 innings over his last 13 starts. He’s been even better over the past six, going 5-0 with a 1.26 ERA while being backed by 5.65 runs per nine innings.
Scherzer - who leads the majors with 213 strikeouts - could’ve used some more help Friday, when he allowed two runs while fanning nine in eight innings before Octavio Dotel surrendered a walkoff hit in a 3-2 defeat at Los Angeles.
Scherzer is 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA in his past three starts on Chicago’s South Side, but has a 2.18 ERA in his last nine overall in the series. Perhaps the best of that bunch came Sept. 1 at Comerica Park, where Scherzer tossed eight shutout innings, striking out nine, in a 5-1 win.
Detroit is 11-5 and has won eight of the last nine in the season series, but is 3-4 in Chicago.
“These are two good baseball teams that aren’t going anywhere,” said Jake Peavy, Tuesday’s losing pitcher. “We haven’t played extremely well against them. If we had half the time, we’d have a nice lead here. Same time, we have a two-game lead and a lot of baseball left to play.”
Chicago has split the first eight of this 10-game homestand, and is expected to activate Gavin Floyd (9-9, 4.55) from the disabled list to face the Tigers on Wednesday.
A right elbow flexor strain forced him out after two innings Aug. 26, when he allowed one run in a 4-3, rain-shortened victory over Seattle.
His return means scheduled starter Francisco Liriano will be available out of the bullpen until at least Friday, but manager Robin Ventura said Floyd won’t be on a pitch count.
“You just go out there and do your job,” Floyd told the team’s official website. “No matter if it’s playoffs or means a lot or doesn’t mean so much, you got to go out there and compete and try to go out there and win.”
Floyd is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two outings against the Tigers this season. One of those came at U.S. Cellular Field, where he’s 3-1 with a 2.98 ERA in nine career starts versus Detroit.
It’s unclear if Chicago will have Adam Dunn back after he sat out a fifth straight game Tuesday because of a strained right oblique.
He’s tied for second in the majors with 38 homers, but hasn’t hit one while going 3 for 18 with 10 strikeouts over the past three seasons against Scherzer.