Tigers 3, White Sox 2: Shaping the 2016 Wild Card Race

The White Sox have been playing a significant role in the AL Wild Card race over the last week. While they themselves aren’t contending, over their last 7 games they took 3 of 4 from the Mariners, pushing them to the periphery of playoff contention, and now have been swept by the Tigers, allowing them to come within a half game of a playoff spot at the end of today’s game (behind the Orioles, who are yet to play tonight).

  1. In a matchup between two potential top 5 Cy Young candidates, runs were unsurprisingly hard to come by.  Tigers ace Justin Verlander was almost wholly dominant, allowing just 2 runs on 3 hits over 7 innings with 9 strikeouts and no walks. The only blemish on his otherwise spotless start was the 4th inning, in which he gave up back-to-back home runs to Jose Abreu and Alex Avila, giving the Sox a 2-0 lead.
  2. Not to be outdone, White Sox ace Chris Sale went 8 innings of 2 run ball, though he got to that line in a rather unconventional way. Over his first 4.2 innings, Sale let up 1 run while not striking out a single batter, walking 3 and allowing 6 hits. Then, with 2 on and 2 out in the 5th inning, Sale struck out Victor Martinez, his first of 6 strikeouts over his final 3.1 innings. For a bit, Sale looked as if he may cruise to a second consecutive complete game, but a JaCoby Jones double followed by a JD Martinez  single saddled him with an 8 inning no-decision. Sale has now gone at least 6 innings in each of his 8 second-half starts, going at least 8 innings 5 times in that stretch.
  3. The White Sox bullpen was hit with a loss for the third straight game today, with David Robertson allowing a double and two flyouts en route to his third loss of the season. While two of the losses this series were handed out by Robertson and Nate Jones, the larger issue here is a bullpen that has no other reliable arms and therefore requiring constant perfection out of their setup man and closer, an unreasonable request, particularly given the fact that they are rarely given more than a one or two-run lead to protect. Having lost Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka to injury and Zach Duke to trade, the pen’s depth is razor-thin, with no real options in high leverage spots if Jones or Robertson falter or need rest.
  4. With his home run today, Alex Avila brought his season line to .241/.366/.398 over 161 PAs, a line that would be quite serviceable if he were able to stay on the field. Even with a bit of a dip from more exposure, his plate approach and small amount of pop would have been nice to have over a full season. Of course, Avila’s body is held together by rusty screws at this point, making him best suited as a second catcher, but he’s a guy who it wouldn’t hurt to have around if you have a solid everyday guy (i.e. definitely not Dioner Navarro).
  5. Today is the last day for teams to acquire players to add to a potential playoff roster via waiver trades, though the White Sox seem unlikely to make any moves. While they should have players who cleared waivers- James Shields definitely would have, and it’s probable David Robertson would go through unclaimed- it looks unlikely they do anything of consequence. It wouldn’t be totally shocking to gauge the market for a player like Melky Cabrera or Todd Frazier now, but it seems unlikely they would do so after being silent at the non-waiver trade deadline.

Lead Image Credit: Rick Osentoski // USA Today Sports Images

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