White Sox-Tigers Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- The Detroit Tigers are alone atop the AL Central for the first time in three months.
Rookie right-hander Jacob Turner will try to keep them there at the expense of the slumping Chicago White Sox.
Turner gets another crack at his first major league victory Sunday when the Tigers try to hand the second-place White Sox a fifth consecutive defeat and complete a three-game sweep.
Since trailing Chicago by 4 1/2 games July 3, the Tigers (51-44) have gone 12-2 to overtake the White Sox by one-half game.
"This isn't over yet," Rick Porcello said after throwing eight strong innings in Saturday's 7-1 victory. "This is just getting started."
Detroit last held sole possession of the division lead April 22, when it was 10-6 and one-half game in front of Chicago.
The While Sox (50-44), meanwhile, are batting .172 with five total runs during their skid, which has dropped them out of first for the first time since June 23.
"There's a lot of baseball left," losing pitcher Chris Sale said after Chicago fell for the 14th time in 17 games at Detroit.
The Tigers go for a fifth consecutive victory with Turner (0-1, 10.29 ERA) looking to rebound from a rough outing.
It was uncertain if the 21-year-old would get another start after getting tagged for seven runs in two innings of Tuesday's 13-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, but with Drew Smyly (right intercostal strain) not ready to pitch, Turner will make another trip to the mound.
"Anytime I can go out there and throw, it's good," he told the Tigers' official website Wednesday. "You don't want to go out there and do what I did last night, but at the same time, it's going to happen in this game."
Sunday's starter Philip Humber (4-4, 5.77) can definitely relate. Since he became the 21st pitcher in major league history to throw a perfect game April 21 at Seattle, the right-hander hasn't come close to that form, going 3-4 with a 7.02 ERA in 11 starts.
However, Humber took a step in the right direction Tuesday, throwing six strong innings in a 7-5 win at Boston. The right-hander was making his first start since coming off the disabled list due to a strained elbow flexor.
"He comes back and was great. This was what we expect out of him in locating and keeping people off balance," manager Robin Ventura said. "… He was getting ahead early and then locating in key counts and not really giving them a whole lot to swing at."
Humber will try to win three consecutive starts for the first time since a career-best four-start stretch from May 31-June 19, 2011.
He'll make his second start against the Tigers after giving up all of the runs in a 4-3 road loss July 17, 2011.
Humber should be careful pitching to leadoff man Austin Jackson, who tied a career high with four RBIs Saturday and went 2 for 5 to lift his batting average against White Sox pitching this season to .341 (14 for 41).
Miguel Cabrera is hitless in four at-bats off Humber, while Prince Fielder will face the right-hander for the first time. The two are a combined 5 for 15 in this series.
Chicago's Kevin Youkilis, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios are a combined 2 for 28 in this series.
The White Sox's last five-game skid was April 24-28.
Updated July 21, 2012