As the pennant races continue, Big League Stew is there to take a closer look at some of the biggest series down the stretch.
Chicago White Sox
Los Angeles Angels
The situations: The White Sox cling to a two-game lead in the AL Central after dropping two of three at home against the Kansas City Royals over the weekend. The Tigers lost all three games at Anaheim against the Angels and have dropped five of six overall. Somebody wants to win the Central, right?
At 79-60, the Athletics own the best record in the AL wild-card chase, and they're only 3 1/2 games behind first-place Texas in the AL West. But they're only 2 1/2 ahead of the Angels, who have won six straight and 11 of 12.
Previously on: The Tigers lead the season series 10-4, having completed a recent three-game sweep of the Sox at Comerica Park that brought the teams into a tie, Detroit's first share of first place since July 25.
Three of the Angels' most recent victories came in a series sweep this past week at Oakland, where they outscored the A's 21-5. The Angels lead the season series 8-7.
What's left: These are the final four games between the Central contenders this season — unless they're tied after 162, of course.
These are the final four games scheduled between the California teams. FYI: The Angels also have six games against Texas. The A's play the Rangers seven times.
For starters (Tigers-White Sox): Detroit's Rick Porcello (9-11, 4.58 ERA) tries to roll against Jose Quintana (5-4, 3.68) in the opener. Doug Fister (8-8, 3.54) opposes Jake Peavy (10-10, 3.22) in the second game and Max Scherzer (15-6, 3.85) gets Francisco Liriano (2-1, 5.09 with the White Sox) on Wednesday. UPDATE: Gavin Floyd, who had missed time with a tender elbow, is replacing Liriano in the rotation. It's all-aces in the finale: Justin Verlander (13-8, 2.91) against Chris Sale (16-6, 2.88).
For starters (Athletics-Angels): Oakland's Jarrod Parker (9-8, 3.67) faces a resurgent Dan Haren (10-10, 4.46) in the opener. Dan Straily (1-0, 3.18) subs for Brandon McCarthy on Tuesday, and A.J. Griffin (5-0, 2.21) goes for the A's on Wednesday, but the Angels haven't announced a starter for either game yet. Ervin Santana (8-11, 5.21) figures to pitch one of the games for the Angels, probably Tuesday, and Jered Weaver (16-4, 2.86) will pitch the other if he's physically able. And in the daytime finale: Brett Anderson (4-0, 0.69) opposes C.J. Wilson (12-9, 3.69).
• What kind of lineup will the White Sox put out there?: A strained oblique muscle might force slugger Adam Dunn to miss the entire series, and Kevin Youkilis has yet to return from the birth of his child. Against Kansas City, the likes of Ray Olmedo, Jose Lopez and Dewayne Wise — batting third — helped to produce one run in a 10-inning loss. With Chicago's pitchers sporting a 5.45 ERA over their past 104 innings, the offense needs to produce at a better clip.
• Mike Trout is awesome: It's no guarantee, but if the A's can keep Mike Trout off the bases and don't hit the ball near him in the outfield, they'll increase their chances to win exponentially. He has accumulated 10 Wins Above Replacement, the first player to do so since Barry Bonds in 2004. Amazing by itself, but also consider he wasn't called up until April 28.
• These games are bigger for the Tigers: Considering they trail by two and won't get another crack at the White Sox, winning three games at U.S. Cellular would be swell. Getting swept would kill them. Side question: Will enough Tigers fans populate the stands that it will seem like a simulated Comerica crowd?
• What's gotten into the A's?: Their pitching remains strong, even without McCarthy, but their offense has diversified. Josh Donaldson and Chris Carter, to name a couple, have been clobbering the ball in the second half. Over his past 99 plate appearances, Donaldson is batting .315/.384/.607 with six homers. Carter is batting .266/.368/.565 with 14 homers in 209 plate appearances.