Justin Verlander has struggled with velocity lately, but those problems may finally be slowing down.
The Tigers ace, who sports a middling 4.19 ERA through 13 starts this season, has averaged a shade over 94 mph on his fastball this season, according to brooksbaseball.net, which is the lowest mark of his career. However, Verlander's last two starts showed promise that his hard stuff could be on the rise.
Facing the Mariners on May 30, the right-handed Verlander held the opposition to three runs over 7 2/3 innings while averaging 95 mph on his four-seamer. Then, despite giving up six runs in seven innings against the hot-hitting Blue Jays in his last start, his heater was up to an average 95.88 mph.
"[My] last couple of starts have been night and day better stuff-wise," Verlander said.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus also feels his starting pitcher has begun turning a corner on the mound.
"Absolutely. His stuff the last two starts has been the best stuff he's had all year," Ausmus said. "Two starts ago in Seattle, he pitched very well. I know against Toronto he gave up a few runs but the stuff was good."
But even with momentum on his side, Verlander will have history working against him. In 15 career starts at U.S. Cellular Field, he is 5-7 with a 4.26 ERA -- though he did manage seven innings of three-run baseball during his last trip to Chicago.
John Danks (4-5, 4.32) will see the bump first for the White Sox.
Danks hit a rough patch during May, including two starts that saw the left-hander allow a combined 16 runs (15 earned) in 9 2/3 innings -- subsequently inflating his season numbers. Since then, however, Danks has hit his stride, surrendering a total of three runs across his last three starts. He pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-run baseball against the Dodgers last time out, scattering just two hits and fanning five.
"I wasn't as sharp as I'd like," said Danks of his most recent outing, "but I guess you could call it effectively wild. It's not an easy lineup and I knew I had to be good going against Josh [Beckett]. Caught some breaks, they hit some balls at some guys and I'm happy we got the win."
Sitting 3 1/2 games back of Detroit in the American League Central, White Sox manager Robin Ventura recognizes the importance of defeating a division opponent. More than putting extra weight on any one series, however, the skipper simply wants to see his team play with more consistency.
"You've got to win some games that you're behind early on, coming from behind to win games and feeling that you can score all the time. Guys get hurt and now they come back," Ventura said. "You've got to find a way to get that feeling back to where you know you can score every time."
Tigers: Ausmus likes veteran-heavy team
The Tigers have struggled to find consistency this season. Winning streaks of eight and six games sandwhiched around a 1-3 stretch put Detroit a season-high 15 games over .500 at 27-12. Since then, Detroit is 6-15.
One of the club's glaring weaknesses has been its bullpen, which has an American Leage-worst 4.69 ERA. But the bullpen, much like the roster as a whole, is a veteran-laden group. Knowing this, Ausmus feels confident he has a team that can handle the peaks and valleys of a season.
"Nothing in baseball is more valuable than experience," Ausmus said. "We have a lot of veterans on this team, and I think it makes it easier to handle the ups and downs of the baseball season. I think it also makes it more comforting to the young players when they see the veterans handling it that way."
White Sox: Fielding woes continue
The White Sox have had their share of issues on the mound this season, but the team's defense has not done the pitching staff any favors, either.
The South Siders rank 14th in the American League in fielding percentage. They have also committed the second-most errors (52) of any AL team this season.
"You've got to get better," Ventura said. "The defense has to work for you. Defensively, we need to get better. That's it. You just have to find ways to make plays.
"Any time you make miscues on defense, you're just making pitchers work more. You're not going to hold up if you do that because it's too hard to win in this league if you're doing that."
• Adam Dunn of the White Sox homered in three straight starts before Tuesday's series opener. With one more big fly, he'll tie Carl Yastrzemski for 36th on the all-time home runs list (452).
• Tigers closer Joe Nathan, who has a 7.04 ERA through 25 relief appearances this season, was given the ninth inning off on Sunday in favor of Joba Chamberlain. Even so, Ausmus said that Nathan is still the team's closer.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.