How Detroit Tigers’ playoff hopes were doomed by Chicago White Sox

Detroit Free Press

By the sour tone in Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire’s voice on Sunday afternoon, it was obvious he didn’t want to be reminded of his team’s nine losses to the Chicago White Sox in 10 games this season.

“Thank you,” Gardenhire said after a 5-2 defeat and three-game series sweep. “I really needed to hear that. Thank you.”

To be more precise, it’s nine losses in a row in the season series, which is finally over. The Tigers gave up 70 runs and scored 28. They are 19-17 against other teams, but the White Sox have been their worst nightmare — whether at Guaranteed Rate Field or in Comerica Park.

With 12 games remaining, and possibly an additional doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals, the 20-26 Tigers are 5½ games back of the AL’s eighth and final playoff spot. They have a 1% chance to make the postseason, according to FanGraphs.com’s projections.

For subscribers: Can Detroit Tigers really make the playoffs? We predict rest of the season

As for those October dreams from last week? Gone.

Because of the White Sox.

“That is a very, very good team,” Gardenhire said. “They’re a good baseball team. I don’t think they’re gonna go away because they got some young talent, a few veteran hitters, but they’re gonna be pretty good for a while.”

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The major pain was inflicted by shortstop Tim Anderson, who finished 20-for-39 (.513) against the Tigers with five homers and 17 RBIs in nine games. He leads the majors in batting average; teammate Jose Abreu is second in home runs (15) and first in RBIs (47).

Chicago’s lineup is loaded from top to bottom, featuring Anderson, Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, Edwin Encarnacion, Luis Robert, Yasmani Grandal, former Tiger James McCann and Yoan Moncada, to name a few. They all flexed their muscles against the Tigers, some more often than others.

“Definitely a very competitive team that we’re going to have to compete against a lot,” said right-hander Spencer Turnbull, who gave up five runs Sunday despite feeling like he pitched his best in two years. “We’re going to have to get better to do it.”

The White Sox have been rebuilding since 2013. They took 100 losses in 2018, two more than the Tigers that season.

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But the White Sox have emerged from their rebuild. The team ranks No. 4 in home runs (78), No. 2 in batting average (.274) and No. 3 in ERA (3.53) — making them candidates for a chance at the World Series as they’ll head into Monday with the AL’s best record.

In the big picture, the Tigers aren’t far behind.

The franchise seems to believe the rebuild will come to completion by 2022 or 2023, setting up for what could become an intense rivalry between the Tigers and White Sox.

[ Casey Mize’s flirt with no-no is reminder how good Detroit Tigers’ future can be ]

“This division is gonna be really good,” first baseman Jeimer Candelario said. “Because we got our young guys, and they got a couple of young guys, too, with old guys.”

Here’s a game-by-game look at how the White Sox owned the Tigers in 2020.

Aug. 10: Tigers 5, White Sox 1

Location: Comerica Park.

Starters: Michael Fulmer vs. Dallas Keuchel.

What happened: The Tigers began the season 9-5, their best start since 2015. Anderson wasn’t in the lineup for the White Sox, hence why they didn’t win. Michael Fulmer tossed three scoreless innings in his venture back from Tommy John surgery. 

Record: 9-5.

Aug. 11: White Sox 8, Tigers 4)

Location: Comerica Park.

Starters: Tyler Alexander vs. Gio Gonzalez.

What happened: Anderson returned and his teammates found their groove. Abreu finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs, while Jimenez added four RBIs. Had it not been for Austin Romine’s two-run homer in the fifth inning, the Tigers wouldn’t have scored until the ninth inning.

Record: 9-6.

Aug. 12: White Sox 7, Tigers 5

Location: Comerica Park.

Starters: Matthew Boyd vs. Dylan Cease.

What happened: Anderson and Jimenez jacked back-to-back homers to start the game, and it was all downhill from there. While the Tigers took a 5-3 lead in the fourth, the White Sox surged back with four runs in the top of the fifth to chase left-hander Matthew Boyd, who allowed seven runs.

Record: 9-7.

Aug. 17: White Sox 7, Tigers 2

Location: Guaranteed Rate Field.

Starters: Matthew Boyd vs. Gio Gonzalez.

What happened: This time it was Anderson and Yoan Moncada with back-to-back jacks to leadoff the first inning against Boyd. Of course, Anderson added his second homer in the next inning. Boyd kept the White Sox to three runs and had nine strikeouts through four innings, but Rony Garcia and Kyle Funkhouser each gave up two runs in relief.

Third baseman Isaac Paredes hit a two-RBI single to left field in his MLB debut for Detroit’s only runs.

Record: 9-11.

Aug. 18: White Sox 10, Tigers 4

Location: Guaranteed Rate Field.

Starters: Tarik Skubal vs. Dylan Cease.

What happened: The second of three rookie debuts, left-hander Tarik Skubal’s fastball was crushed by Anderson for another leadoff home run. The White Sox scored four runs in two innings against him, and it was all downhill from there.

Record: 9-12.

Aug. 19: White Sox 5, Tigers 3

Location: Guaranteed Rate Field.

Starters: Casey Mize vs. Dane Dunning.

What happened: Esteemed 2018 No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize made his MLB debut and struck out seven in 4⅓ innings. On the other side, Dane Dunning fanned seven in his first big-league appearance. Reliever Gregory Soto blew a tie game with homers by Abreu and Encarnacion in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Record: 9-13.

Aug. 20: White Sox 9, Tigers 0

Location: Guaranteed Rate Field.

Starters: Spencer Turnbull vs. Lucas Giolito.

What happened: One start before tossing a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Lucas Giolito was stellar with 13 strikeouts in seven innings. Anderson and Abreu continued to scorch Detroit’s pitching, while the offense went down without a fight.

Record: 9-14

Sept. 11: White Sox 4, Tigers 3

Location: Guaranteed Rate Field.

Starters: Casey Mize vs. Lucas Giolito.

What happened: This was the best game the Tigers played against the White Sox. Why? Because Mize took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and the offense backed him up with three runs. While the Tigers took 28 minutes to score those runs in the top of the sixth, Mize waited on the bench. Upon his return, he gave up his first hit to the second batter faced and, after recording an out, was pulled by Gardenhire at 76 pitches.

Mize’s replacement, Jose Cisnero, gave up a homer two batters later — giving the White Sox a one-run lead that they didn’t squander.

Record: 20-24.

Sept. 12: White Sox 14, Tigers 0

Location: Guaranteed Rate Field.

Starters: Michael Fulmer vs. Reynaldo Lopez.

What happened: Anderson, Abreu and Jimenez combined to go 11-for-13 at the plate. Abreu had seven RBIs, including three-run homers in the fourth and fifth innings. The Tigers only had five hits, two of which were in the ninth inning. 

Record: 20-25.

Sept. 13: White Sox 5, Tigers 2

Location: Guaranteed Rate Field.

Starters: Spencer Turnbull vs. Jonathan Stiever.

What happened: Making his MLB debut, right-hander Jonathan Stiever had a hard time in the first inning, but settled in quickly against the Tigers. His bullpen was solid following his departure in the fourth inning, only giving up one run.

Record: 20-26.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content. 

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