While there figures to be plenty of intrigue surrounding this weekend's three-game set between the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox and second-place Detroit Tigers, neither club appears to be buying in to the hype.
Justin Verlander takes the mound opposite Jake Peavy as the surging Tigers try to inch closer to the visiting White Sox on Friday night.
After controlling the division for nearly two months, Chicago (50-42) could soon be in danger of relinquishing its lead. The White Sox have dropped four of six and sit just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers (49-44), who are starting to live up to preseason expectations following many weeks of subpar play.
Detroit has hit .307 with runners in scoring position and averaged 5.6 runs - a full run higher than its season mark - in winning 10 of 12. The Tigers enter this series after taking three of four from the Los Angeles Angels, prevailing 5-1 in Thursday's series finale.
"When you have a good team, at some point they're going to play good," manager Jim Leyland said. "And, we're playing pretty good right now. This is really not a surprise to me. You just have to weather the storms we did in the first half and we survived that pretty well."
Though the Tigers and White Sox understand the magnitude of their upcoming matchups, both teams are trying to keep an even keel heading into the weekend.
"I'm sure it's going to be big in the community, but it's July," Leyland said.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura shared the same sentiment.
"It's a big series, but it's not going to win or break (our season)," he said.
Chicago and Detroit have split eight meetings in 2012, but the Tigers have taken 12 of 15 from the White Sox at home.
"In the Central, everybody beats up on everybody," White Sox slugger Adam Dunn told his team's official website. "There's so many games left that to talk about head-to-head matchups, to me, doesn't make sense. We put ourselves in this position. If we go out and take care of business and play well, we'll win the division."
Chicago suffered a deflating 3-1 loss Thursday at Boston, taking a one-run lead into the ninth inning before Addison Reed gave up a three-run homer to Cody Ross.
Getting back on track could prove difficult against Verlander (10-5, 2.43 ERA), who's 10-1 with a 2.33 ERA over his last 11 starts in this series.
The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young award winner has also been excellent over his last six outings overall, going 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA. In his first appearance since the All-Star break, Verlander struck out eight over eight innings of three-hit ball in Sunday's 4-0 victory at Baltimore.
While Peavy (7-6, 3.12) was for the most part superb over the first half of the season, his second half got off to a rough start Saturday. The right-hander was tagged for six runs and a career-worst 12 hits over seven-plus innings of a 6-3 defeat at Kansas City.
"I just wasn't good enough," said Peavy, who threw 120 pitches. "I feel fine health-wise. I just wasn't crazy sharp."
Peavy also struggled in his last meeting with the Tigers, yielding six runs and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings of a 10-8 loss May 15. Since joining the White Sox in 2009, though, he's gone 1-0 with a 1.72 ERA in two outings in Detroit.
Kevin Youkilis could be back in the lineup for Chicago after sitting out Thursday with a tight left hamstring. Batting .362 with four homers and 14 RBIs in his last 12 games overall, Youkilis is hitless in his last 17 at-bats at Detroit.