Prior to the start of the season, few would have considered a matchup between Detroit's Drew Smyly and Chicago's Jake Peavy a pitchers' duel.
Both are off to sensational starts, however, and runs could be hard to come by when the two square off in Friday night's series opener between the Tigers and White Sox at Comerica Park.After opening 9-3, Detroit (12-12) has lost nine of 12 and trails Central-leading Cleveland by 1 1/2 games."Our expectations were we had to win the division by 25 or 30 games -- they were pretty unrealistic in the first place," catcher Alex Avila said after Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Kansas City. "Our goal at spring training was to win the division, by one game or 10 games doesn't matter to us. We're not happy with the way we've played, but that's part of baseball and no one in this clubhouse is worried about it."While Justin Verlander hasn't been as dominant as he was last season and Prince Fielder is underachieving with one extra-base hit in his last 12 games and just three total homers, Smyly (1-0, 1.23 ERA) is outperforming his expectations.Smyly earned his first major league victory Saturday at Yankee Stadium, allowing a run and two hits while striking out seven over six innings in a 7-5 win. The left-handed rookie, who has yielded one run in each of his four starts, could have a few more victories but was backed by three total runs of support in his first three games."I'd say it's too early to get carried away, but it's not too early to say he's really doing well," Jim Leyland told the Tigers' official website. "We're very happy with what we're seeing, and it looks like he can settle into that spot and be very effective for us. But it's early."Similar to Smyly, Peavy (3-1, 1.67) has been a pleasant surprise in Chicago's rotation.After a 2011 season in which he made two trips to the disabled list and had a career-worst 4.92 ERA, Peavy is once again pitching like he did when he won the 2007 NL Cy Young Award.The right-hander was named April's AL pitcher of the month after leading the league with a 0.69 WHIP and racking up 33 strikeouts to five walks. He threw his second straight complete game Saturday against Boston, limiting the Red Sox to four hits and a walk, but was saddled with a 1-0 loss."He just continues to impress and pitch brilliantly," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.Peavy notched his first win of the season against the Tigers on April 13, yielding two runs and two hits while striking out eight over 6 2/3 innings. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit's leader with seven homers and 21 RBIs, was 0 for 2 with a walk against Peavy, and is batting .143 with 11 strikeouts lifetime against the three-time All-Star.The White Sox (12-13) took two of three from the Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field in mid-April, but have lost 10 of the last 12 meetings at Comerica Park. They arrive in Detroit after Thursday's 7-5 loss to Cleveland, their seventh in nine games.Paul Konerko is slumping a bit, having gone 0 for 9 in his last three games, but Adam Dunn is heating up.Dunn hit a two-run homer Thursday, his third in four games, and leads the White Sox with seven home runs and 19 RBIs. He could struggle if he is even in the lineup Friday, though, as he's hitting .111 with 13 strikeouts in 27 at-bats against left-handed pitchers.Detroit's Delmon Young almost certainly will not be in the starting lineup in the first game he is eligible to return from a seven-day suspension for yelling anti-Semitic epithets during a late-night, drunken tussle before he was arrested at a New York hotel last week.