With Miguel Cabrera tossed early in Monday's series opener, the Detroit Tigers failed to manage much offense in a loss to the Chicago White Sox.
The Tigers hope for better fortunes Tuesday night against rookie Erik Johnson in his second career start, and Rick Porcello could certainly use the run support given his recent outings.
Detroit (82-62) lost for the fifth time in six contests as Chris Sale outpitched Max Scherzer in Chicago on Monday. Sale yielded one run and four hits over eight innings while Scherzer gave up five runs and six hits in four innings while being charged with back-to-back losses for the first time this year.
Cabrera was ejected in the first inning after complaining that he had been hit in the leg by a pitch. Manager Jim Leyland was also ejected for the 72nd time in his career after coming out in defense of the reigning MVP.
"The guy's the best hitter in the game, so it does change the game - the dynamic of it,'' White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "But I think the way Chris was throwing tonight and the way we scored I would hope that he would have been able to still do the same stuff."
The Tigers are 2-6 in September. Excluding a 16-2 win at Kansas City on Friday, they've totaled 14 runs this month. Torii Hunter, who is batting .297 on the season, is 4 for 31 since Sept. 1, dropping his average 10 points.
Cleveland's win over Kansas City on Monday trimmed the Tigers' edge to 4 1/2 games in the AL Central.
The White Sox (58-85), who have won two in a row after dropping nine straight, hope Johnson (0-1, 4.50 ERA) can improve on a mediocre major league debut. He gave up five runs - three earned - and seven hits over six innings of a 6-5 loss at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
Forty-five of the 23-year-old's 105 pitches were balls as he issued three walks.
"It was a great feeling to be out there," said Johnson, who admitted nerves played a factor. "I think I could have just filled up the strike zone a bit better, worked ahead, especially with all my pitches. That was the main thing."
Detroit counters with Porcello (11-8, 4.76), who has posted a 6.55 ERA over his last six starts but still went 3-2, receiving an average of 5.45 runs of support.
Porcello had gone his first 145 career starts without giving up more than two homers before yielding three, along with nine runs and four other hits in five-plus innings of a 20-4 loss at Boston on Wednesday. He had given up three home runs in his previous eight starts combined.
"I didn't think Ricky pitched that bad that he takes a statistical hit with his ERA," Leyland said "They were hitting them out like ping pong balls."
All three homers came against left-handed batters, who have an on-base plus slugging of .839 off Porcello this year compared to a .619 figure for right-handers.
Lefty Adam Dunn is 7 for 19 off Porcello lifetime with two home runs.
Porcello has seen favorable results against the White Sox, going 8-1 with a 2.50 ERA over the last 11 matchups, including a 3-0 mark in four starts this year. Gordon Beckham is 10 for 23 off him with four doubles but Chicago's leading batter, Alexei Ramirez, is 8 for 43 (.186).