Last week's All-Star game provided thrilling moments for Detroit Tigers starter Max Scherzer and Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale, though that may be all the two have in common as they prepare to take the hill for their respective clubs Monday night in Chicago.
Detroit's offense has provided Scherzer (13-1, 3.19 ERA) with a major league-best 7.29 run-support average, and his 152 strikeouts also rank among the most in baseball.
That support contributed to Scherzer nearly becoming the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986 to start 14-0 and first ever to carry that mark into the All-Star break, though he gave up four runs in six innings of a 7-1 loss to Texas on July 13. That outing marked only the second time in 19 starts that he received fewer than two runs of support.
"It's a loss," Scherzer said. "That's what happens when you don't quite pitch as well.''
The right-hander parlayed his overall success, though, into starting Tuesday's All-Star game, which the AL won 3-0.
"For me to be able to start the All-Star game and be able to have the success I did, you just take it all in," said Scherzer, who retired all three batters he faced. "This is something I'll never forget."
Sale relieved Scherzer and earned the win after striking out two in two perfect innings.
"It was awesome," Sale said. "Being able to see that and experience that, it was fun for me to be part of that pitching staff."
The White Sox, though, haven't provided much offense for Sale (6-8, 2.85 ERA), whose 2.70 run-support average ranks last in the majors. He's received fewer than three runs of support in 10 of 17 starts.
Having Paul Konerko back may help. Konerko, hitting .249 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs, is in the lineup as the designated hitter after being activated from the 15-day disabled list before this game.
Konerko was placed on the DL on July 3 with a lower back strain and has played one game since June 25. He's 8 for 29 (.276) with two homers and 12 strikeouts when facing Scherzer.
Chicago (39-56) backed Sale in his latest performance, as he overcame a season-high 10 hits allowed and gave up three runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-3 win at Detroit on July 11. He had gone 0-6 in his previous seven starts despite a 3.10 ERA.
The benches cleared in that matchup, though no punches were thrown.
"Especially for Sale, we needed to get him a win,'' said catcher Josh Phegley, who hit a grand slam in that contest. "He threw well and he deserved it.''
The left-hander had lost his previous three starts versus the Tigers while posting a 6.00 ERA.
Scherzer is 5-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 career starts against the White Sox, and he's had plenty of success facing Alexei Ramirez (3 for 30) and Alex Rios (3 for 24) in his career.
Rios went 2 for 4 and drove in a run as the White Sox beat NL East-leading Atlanta 3-1 Sunday. They've won two straight after dropping 14 of their previous 19 and haven't won three in a row since June 8-10.
The AL Central-leading Tigers (53-44) avoided a three-game sweep to Kansas City with a 4-1 win Sunday, as Miguel Cabrera hit his 31st homer.
Cabrera, who is batting .453 with seven homers and 15 RBIs in his last 16 games versus the White Sox, leads the majors hitting .359.
"That ball is in on his hands, he hit it hard and kept it fair,'' manager Jim Leyland said. "He's just an amazing hitter, and we know that.''
Chicago took two of three in Detroit from July 9-11 in the only meetings this season.
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