White Sox-Tigers Preview
Both struggled to live up to that lofty status recently, but they have something more pressing than that individual award Sunday night.
Verlander looks to continue his dominance of the Chicago White Sox in order to pull the Detroit Tigers level with them atop the AL Central by completing a sweep of this three-game set.
Detroit (71-61) is trailing Chicago (72-60) by one game for the division lead after winning 5-1 Saturday following a 7-4 victory in Friday's series opener.
"We know we need to win games," manager Jim Leyland said. "I usually don't emphasize series. I did say this is a bigger series."
Verlander (12-7, 2.80 ERA) will bid for the sweep, which would give the Tigers seven straight home wins over the White Sox and 17 in the last 20 games between the teams at Comerica Park.
The venue hasn't mattered for Verlander, who is 11-1 with a 2.32 ERA in his last 12 starts against the Central rival. He beat them again at home July 20, yielding two runs and four hits in eight innings of a 4-2 victory.
This time, however, the reigning AL MVP will oppose Sale (15-5, 2.81) for the first time.
Sale has emerged as Chicago's ace this year as he attempts to become the first White Sox pitcher to win the Cy Young Award since Jack McDowell in 1993.
He's one victory shy of the AL lead held by Tampa Bay's David Price and Jered Weaver of Los Angeles, and they're also scheduled to pitch Sunday.
Sale, though, has lost both of his starts this year against the Tigers, allowing eight runs and 12 hits with 11 strikeouts and six walks in 12 innings.
While Sale and Verlander are among the league's best pitchers, both had issues in their last appearance.
Sale gave up four runs with five strikeouts and three walks in four innings of a 6-0 loss at Baltimore on Tuesday. Verlander wasn't any better in a 9-8 loss at Kansas City on the same day, getting tagged for a career high-tying eight earned runs and 12 hits in 5 2-3 innings while not getting a decision.
Perhaps a home start can help Verlander rebound. He's 4-0 with a 1.72 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 47 innings over his last six starts there, including his most recent with Chicago.
The Tigers have also won 24 of 30 at home, where Miguel Cabrera has been a spark at the plate batting .366 with 11 homers and 27 RBIs in that stretch.
The third baseman has six hits with one double, one homer and four RBIs in this series as he continues to pound the White Sox at Comerica. He has a .469 average with three homers and eight RBIs in helping Detroit win seven of eight there against them this year.
Cabrera, however, is 1 for 10 versus Sale.
It's unclear if the White Sox will have Adam Dunn back after he sat out Saturday's loss with a strained oblique. The slugger leads the majors with 38 homers while driving in 88 runs, getting three and seven, respectively, in 12 meetings with the Tigers.
Two of his three hits in 20 at-bats versus Verlander have been home runs.
Chicago is concluding a seven-game road trip, trying to win for just the second time. Still, manager Robin Ventura isn't ready to panic.
"There's a long way to go. You're still where you want to be," Ventura said. "No use hanging your head. Still a lot worse places you could be."