Yet, a 1 ½ game lead as we approach August seems much larger in the wake of how the Tigers dismantled the White Sox the last three days. The Tigers are hot, having won 15 of its last 20 games and many in baseball feel that this is where they take control of the division.
The Tigers are rolling and the Sox are headed in the opposite direction. The last three days have also amplified the difference between the two clubs. The Tigers simply have a better pitching staff.
It is deeper and more experienced. While the Tigers are able to roll out Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer, the Sox have counted heavily on Chris Sale and Jake Peavy.
Peavy is on pace to throw 229 innings this year and hasn’t reached 200 innings since 2007. He is also just two years removed from a radical shoulder surgery. While Peavy is a bulldog of a competitor, the workload of the second half will be a big challenge.
Sale meanwhile is on pace to throw 200 innings as well. Coming into the season, he had thrown just over 200 innings total in his previous three years. How will the slender lefty hold up to the added pressure of a pennant race and the uncharted waters of the additional innings?
Gavin Floyd is coming off the disabled list and John Danks has been hurt for the last two months. The Tigers rotation looks much healthier and going forward looks much steadier.
The bullpens also offer a contrast. Gone are the days of the White Sox rolling out Bobby Jenks in the 9th inning to shut down the Tigers. Chicago’s bullpen has featured as many as five rookies. The Tigers meanwhile have veterans at the back end that are both accomplished and deeply experienced.
The White Sox though are not likely to fade into the sunset. GM Kenny Williams has an aggressive reputation when it comes to improving his roster. He has already traded for Kevin Youkilis and added depth to the bullpen with the addition of Brett Myers. Youkilis did not have a good series in Detroit, but he has certainly given the Sox offense a jolt.
The Tigers also have a GM that is constantly looking at ways to improve. Whether or not Dave Dombrowski and his scouts can identify another Doug Fister or Delmon Young this season remains to be seen.
The Tigers took 6 of 7 from the Angels and White Sox on the home stand and it’s becoming clear that they are getting ready to roll through the dog days of the baseball summer.