(Sports Network) - Justin Verlander tries to follow up a spectacular first half of the season this evening when the Detroit Tigers open a three-game set with the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park.
Verlander has been terrific for the Tigers, going 12-4 with a 2.15 earned run average. He has been even better of late, posting an 8-1 mark through his last nine starts, while pitching to a minuscule 0.75 earned run average.
The flame-throwing right-hander bounced back from having his 12-game unbeaten streak stopped in his previous outing, as he beat the Kansas City Royals, holding them to an unearned run and six hits in 7 2/3 innings. He also struck out nine in the win and is tied for the major league lead with 147 punchouts on the season.
"I really just tried not to do too much," Verlander said about the game where temperatures reached the upper 90s. "I tried to take it easy and leave something in the tank for when I needed it. I knew it would be a grind out there as hot as it was, so I really took my time between pitches and tried to slow things down a little bit. I felt like that helped."
Verlander, who is one win shy of New York lefty CC Sabathia's major league lead, has beaten the White Sox twice already this season and has won the last seven times he has faced them. For his career he is 9-9 against them with a 4.39 ERA in 21 starts.
Detroit was expected to be one of the top teams in the American League Central and it lived up to expectations, as it begins the second half tied atop the division with the surprising Cleveland Indians.
Chicago, meanwhile, was also expected to be one of the top teams in the division, but after a miserable start, the White Sox find themselves five games back of the leaders.
A big part of the White Sox' problems has been their play against their own division, especially the Tigers, who have won five of the six matchups this season against them. Overall Chicago is just 8-16 versus the Central.
"For the most part we haven't played up to our capability," White Sox outfielder Juan Pierre said. "We had a couple of stretches where we played good ball, but we haven't got hot yet. Hopefully, the second half of the season we can catch fire a little bit."
Of the many disappointments this season for the Pale Hose, front and center has been slugger Adam Dunn, who is hitting a mere .160 with 177 strikeouts, nine home runs and 34 RBI in year one of the four-year, $56 million deal he signed this past offseason.
Tonight Chicago turns to righty Gavin Floyd, who has lost his last four decisions. Floyd's latest setback came on Friday to Minnesota, which battered him for seven runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings, dropping him to 6-9 on the season, while raising his ERA to 4.59.
Floyd has faced the Tigers 14 times in his career and is 5-1 with a 3.51 ERA.
On the injury front the Tigers are expected to have first baseman Miguel Cabrera in the lineup this evening. Cabrera left Tuesday's All-Star Game with mild soreness in his right side.
Detroit has won 11 of its last 12 against the White Sox, including six straight at Comerica.