Going into action Friday night the Chicago White Sox lead the Detroit Tigers by just 1½ games. The White Sox desperately need to bring the mojo back to the South Side after a devastating loss to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, which saw the splendid effort by Jose Quintana go to waste.
While a series sweep this weekend against the Tigers is certainly preferable, two out of three would be just fine for the White Sox.
It all starts with right-hander, Jake Peavy.
Peavy (7-6, 3.12) faces off with last season’s MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander (10-5, 2.43) in a matchup that will determine the direction of the rest of the series, and perhaps the second half.
Setting the tone early will be key for Peavy. Last time out against the Kansas City Royals, he fell behind in the count early and often giving up six earned runs in seven innings. While some pitchers can overcome not throwing first-pitch strikes, Peavy cannot.
Getting behind in the count does not get the job done against Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the rest of the Tigers formidable lineup. Heck, it does not get the job done against the Royals.
It is not because he can’t throw strikes when he is behind in the count; it is because it negates his best pitch. Peavy, 3-5 in his last 10 starts, is most effective when he is ahead and can use his devastating slider with two strikes. The pitch is almost impossible to lay-off of and equally impossible to hit.
Following the heartbreak in Boston, manager Robin Ventura said that the team will have forgotten the pain by the time they landed in Detroit.
If Peavy lays an egg Friday night, however, the effects may linger well past this weekend.
The Sox, 5-1-1 in the last seven series, are strong mentally and have some incredible leadership, both on the coaching staff and on the roster. That said, in the thick of a pennant race, success breeds confidence and it is time for the Sox to get back on track.
With Chris Sale and Quintana holding up their end of the bargain, it is time for Peavy to climb aboard the quality start train. The Sox are going to need the three of them to handle the load even if general manager Kenny Williams brings in another starter before the trade deadline.