Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011
Posted: 8:55 a.m.
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(AP) -- When Chicago and Cleveland last met three weeks ago, the teams were battling for second place and just back of AL Central-leading Detroit.
The White Sox have since overtaken the Indians for second, but that doesn't seem to matter much now.
Having fallen significantly off the pace in the division, Chicago and Cleveland open a four-game series Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field looking like they'll simply be playing for pride down the stretch.
The White Sox (71-70) were 3 12 games back of the Tigers, while the Indians were two games out when they opened a three-game series in Chicago on Aug. 16. Cleveland (70-70) took two of three in that series between teams with legitimate playoff hopes.
That isn't the case anymore, however.
The White Sox have dropped five of eight to fall nine games back of Detroit, while the Indians have lost five of seven and are 9 12 back.
Cleveland's playoff aspirations effectively came to an end when it was swept in a three-game home series by the Tigers, capped with an 8-6 loss Wednesday.
"We just got swept," said first baseman Shelley Duncan, who hit a pair of two-run homers off Justin Verlander. "We're a little down right now."
Although his club's postseason chances are dim, manager Manny Acta is trying to stay positive.
"If we don't win (Thursday), it's not because this series is lingering," he said. "They've gone through worse and they have bounced back."
The White Sox, who lost to Minnesota 5-4 on Wednesday, experienced their own sweep to the Tigers over the weekend. Possibly the biggest blow to Chicago's playoff hopes came in scheduled starter Gavin Floyd's last outing.
In Detroit on Saturday, Floyd (12-10, 4.45 ERA) gave up four runs and eight hits and departed after five innings with the White Sox leading 8-4. But closer Sergio Santos gave up two homers in the ninth and the Tigers won 9-8 to drop Chicago 7 12 games off the pace.
Floyd has been hit-or-miss against the Indians lately. Since 2009, the right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.03 ERA in five starts in the series, but 0-2 with a 15.43 ERA in the other three.
It has been a similar story since the All-Star break for Floyd, who has posted a 1.45 ERA in winning six of his starts as opposed to 0-1 with a 13.15 ERA in the other three. He has made two starts against the Indians in this stretch with two differing results.
In Cleveland on July 22, Floyd allowed four hits in 7 2-3 innings of a 3-0 win, but at U.S. Cellular on Aug. 16, he gave up five runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-7, 14-inning win.
The Indians counter with David Huff (2-3, 2.81), who gave up five runs and six hits in six innings of Saturday's 5-1 loss to Kansas City. It was the second time in three starts the left-hander permitted five runs after posting a 0.51 ERA in his first three starts.
Huff made a relief appearance against Chicago on Aug. 16, entering in the 14th inning to face Juan Pierre, who singled home the winning run.
He made all of his three career starts against the White Sox in 2009, going 2-0 despite an 8.04 ERA.
Chicago's Alexei Ramirez, batting .333 with six doubles in his last 11 games, is 5 for 9 with two homers lifetime against Huff.
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