Matchup: Tigers (74-87) at White Sox (87-74), 1:05 p.m. CT, WGN
Probable Starters: Freddy Garcia (58 IP, 6.05 RA, 1.60 WHIP, 50 K-2007) vs. Gavin Floyd (200
Pythagorean Record: Detroit, 78-83 (819 RS, 849 RA); Chicago, 88-73 (802 RS, 727 RA)
List Rankings: Detroit, #17; Chicago, #7
Prospectus: Mark Buehrle helped keep the Sox alive yesterday, beating the Indians 5-1 to snap the team’s five-game losing streak, and this afternoon Chicago will host Detroit in a makeup game from a rainout earlier this month to finish up their regular season. Because Minnesota also won its game on Sunday, a victory today would send the Pale Hose to a one-game playoff at U.S. Cellular against the Twins on Tuesday for the AL Central; a loss and Chicago’s playoff odds will have fallen from 87.8 percent on September 20 down to zero. Ozzie Guillen is giving the ball to Floyd on three days’ rest; he was knocked around by Minnesota for four runs in 5
This game will feature a matchup between two players who were traded for each other, as Garcia will be making his first start against his former team since being shipped to Philadelphia by the Sox in December of 2006 for Floyd and Gio Gonzalez. Garcia departed the South Side after two and a half very solid seasons-he was 40-21 for Chicago, throwing over 200 innings with an above-average ERA in each of his two full campaigns, and was a post-season hero in 2005 when he posted a 3-0 record and 2.14 ERA in three starts to help the Sox end their 87-year championship drought. Despite his services to Chicago as a solid innings-eater, the Sox benefited from shipping Garcia off, for Floyd has emerged as a cheap, young, and capable mid-rotation starter this season, and Gonzalez was dealt again as part of the package that brought the Sox Nick Swisher. Not only that, but Chicago also got to take the $10 million Garcia was owed in the final year of his deal last season off of their books, and in light of the fact that Chief threw just 58 ineffective innings with Philadelphia before going under the knife for labrum surgery (which can often spell the end of a pitcher’s career), they’d dodged another bullet by making the deal. Garcia has made it back to start twice for Detroit since signing a minor league contract, making one good outing in his season debut against Texas and one bad one last Tuesday versus Kansas City, and now has this last chance to impress potential free-agent suitors, and also stick it to his old mates.
While Garcia will surely be pumped up to pitch this afternoon-“I got plenty text messages from him already. He says he can’t wait to beat us,” Guillen said-there might not be anyone in the Tigers dugout who wants to win this game more than Magglio Ordonez. Detroit’s right fielder is one of the best hitters in White Sox history-after playing for Chicago from 1997 to 2004, he ranks third in the team’s annals in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS, and fifth in home runs. Ordonez’s impressive tenure with the Sox was brought to a sour end by the knee injury he suffered that limited him to 52 games in ’04, and by his acrimonious relationship with Guillen, who was then in his first season as skipper. After Ordonez departed in free agency to the Tigers, the two engaged in verbal hostilities, with Guillen producing a profane tirade about his former outfielder. (The animosity between Guillen and Ordonez may well have faded, however, especially since Guillen picked Ordonez as a reserve on the 2006 All-Star team.) While Ordonez has not approached the numbers put up in his career 2007 season, he has posted his third straight year of 30-plus doubles, 20-plus homers, and 100-plus RBI, and ranks fifth in the AL with a .318 batting average.
Besides the satisfaction of knocking Chicago out of the playoff picture, Ordonez and Co. will also be playing to avoid spending all winter alone in the division’s basement, for a win would move them into a tie with Kansas City for fourth place. Gary Sheffield has extra motivation to hammer away at the White Sox as well, for he stands one long ball shy of becoming the 25th player to hit 500 homers.
I would like to thank Jason Paré, William Burke, and Clay Davenport for their expert assistance in running data queries to provide stats in this year’s preview column. I would also like to thank the BP editorial team, as well as the people behind Baseball-Reference, which was an invaluable resource for this column all season long.
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus. He can be reached here.