CHICAGO – White Sox manager Robin Ventura rarely, if ever, discusses future opponents.
So focused on each individual game, Ventura has perfected the art of dodging those topics, following his season-long philosophy. But even Ventura couldn’t avoid the playoff implications of the Sox’s four-game series that begins tonight against the Detroit Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field.
“Everybody gets that; you just guard against thinking it’s the end of the season,” Ventura said. “There’s nothing further from the truth. We realize they’re important and everything else, but there’s been teams that think the big series is just the one with them and they forget to play. There’s still going to be close to 20 games left after that. And that could slip pretty quickly if you let your guard down.”
For the Sox, this week’s series represents the best opportunity to extend their two-game AL Central lead in the teams’ final meeting of the regular season. Detroit has confounded the Sox, however, winning eight straight games against the South Siders with a 10-4 overall record this season.
“Guys need to enjoy it. There’s ways to appreciate it and get something out of it,” Ventura said. “I think for a lot of guys that have had seasons where there’s nothing in it, you just play out September and put your numbers up and go home. It’s bigger than that. I think that’s the part everybody’s enjoying. It’s not just about their numbers and everything else, it’s about winning games.”
Playing on their home field could swing the momentum in the Sox’s favor. Although they’ve lost 16 of their past 20 games against Detroit, the Sox own a 3-2 record against them at U.S. Cellular Field this year, where they have won 24 of their past 31 games, including 10 of their past 12.
The Tigers are limping into tonight’s series opener after getting swept by the Angels, part of a 1-5 stretch since they swept the Sox in Detroit.
“Detroit has a great team,” pitcher Jake Peavy said. “It’s the bottom line, they don’t have many holes at all. … It has been surprising that after they swept us, things haven’t went their way. But that’s just baseball.”
Rookie left-hander Jose Quintana will try to set the tone for the Sox’s pitching staff, taking the mound tonight against right-hander Rick Porcello (9-11, 4.58 ERA). Quintana never has faced the Tigers and enters the game coming off his two worst starts. The Twins rocked him for seven runs in 11⁄3 innings in Tuesday’s start.
“I wouldn’t say it was anything I was doing wrong, it was more so that I was hurrying on top,” Quintana said through a translator. “I was opening up my shoulder more.
“My confidence hasn’t changed. Some rough outings happen. You just go about business and every day is a new day.”
Peavy, Francisco Liriano and Chris Sale are scheduled to start while the Tigers counter with Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Thursday’s series finale features a rematch of last week’s battle between Sale and Verlander, a potentially pivotal game if either team is in position to win the series or sweep.
“I can promise you, if you can’t get up at this point and time and get excited to pitch, no matter who it’s against, with what our team has on the line, then you have problems,” Peavy said. “I’m sure there will be extra energy in the ballpark, and that’s because of the two teams that are playing and what’s at stake with these two teams being as close in distance as we are, and them having some fans here.”