Chris Sale was close to another gem in his Saturday night start against the Angels before experiencing a miserable finish.
Sale had allowed one hit over 6 2/3 scoreless innings, before giving up six hits to the final eight hitters he faced. That rough stretch, which resulted in five runs, culminated with a game-tying grand slam from Mike Trout on a 3-2 changeup. The Angels came back from a 5-0 deficit and turned it into a 6-5 come-from-behind victory.
But there is a reason Sale (5-0) is still undefeated: He has yet to give up more than four earned runs in any of his eight starts. He missed a handful of starts because of a strained flexor muscle in April, but bounced back to post a 1.80 ERA in the four starts he's made since returning. He's also holding opposing teams to a .119 batting average during that span.
"He just goes and pitches," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "He's a high intensity guy, a lot of emotion. He separates it pretty good."
This will be Sale's ninth start and his seventh at home, carrying a 2-0 record and a 0.72 ERA over his last four starts at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale will be making his 19th career appearance against the Tigers, but his first of this season.
Max Scherzer (7-2) is coming off a Cy Young season for Detroit in which he won 21 games while only losing three. A ratio like that is almost impossible to maintain, but Scherzer has kept his loss count in the single digits every season since 2011 (30-plus starts each year). His strikeout-per-nine-innings rate (10.3) is higher than last year (10.1) but he's falling behind in hits-per-nine (8.5 vs. 6.4) and walks-per-nine (2.6 vs. 2.4).
Scherzer is still an elite arm, and he flashed his talents against the Red Sox last Saturday, tossing nine strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings of work. He gave up four earned runs, however, and continued a problematic pattern: he's given up at least four runs in his past four starts (1-1 in that time).
"He doesn't walk a ton of guys," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "When he gets in trouble, it just seems that he misses over the middle and they get to the ball, and they get a hit here, a hit there and it costs him a run. But overall, he's good. I'm not concerned about him. You could slice up the stats any way you want, but he's still one of the best in the game."
Tigers: Rotation shuffled following rainout
Tuesday's rainout caused a slight change to the Tigers rotation.
Justin Verlander was originally scheduled to pitch Tuesday and was bumped to Wednesday, displacing Drew Smyly. Since the team elected to keep Scherzer on schedule for Thursday, Smyly will start Friday and Anibal Sanchez will move back a day to Saturday.
"The White Sox are pitching a pretty strong starter tomorrow, so we'd like to keep Max there to pitch against Sale and everybody else just gets pushed back," Ausmus said.
White Sox: Rienzo has World Cup fever
Andre Rienzo, the native of Brazil, was talking about the upcoming World Cup soccer action prior to Wednesday's game, when Alexei Ramirez interrupted the interview by waving a Lionel Messi jersey in front of his face.
Ramirez might be supporting Messi and Argentina, but Rienzo is directly and intensely connected to Brazil's success.
"It's huge in Brazil right now," said Rienzo of the World Cup. "It's a party, and people like it and people want to go and see the games happen. I hope Brazil wins because it's in Brazil."
The pitcher and shortstop have a deal regarding the World Cup's final outcome.
"If Brazil wins, I got to get a Brazil shirt and get a picture," Rienzo said. "If Argentina wins, I get a picture with the Argentina jersey. I hope Brazil wins, because if I get a picture with Argentina, people will kill me."
• Both Scherzer and Sale are alums of the La Crosse (Wis.) Loggers, a Northwoods League summer team. Scherzer pitched for the Loggers in 2004, while Sale spent time there in 2008.
• Scherzer's higher hits-per-nine-innings rate could be cause for concern, considering he didn't give up a single double-digit hit game last season. This year, he's hit that mark twice, including 11 against Boston last Saturday.
Alex M. Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.