Game 11 Preview: Tigers at Royals

April 6, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Bruce Chen (52) pitches in the second inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Detroit Tigers (7-3) at Kansas City Royals (3-7)

Time/Place: 8 p.m., Kauffman Stadium

SB Nation Blog: Royals Review

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: Drew Smyly (0-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. Bruce Chen (0-0, 1.64 ERA)

In his first start of the year, Chen shut down the Los Angeles Angels for 6 innings, needing only 75 pitches to do so. He was very aggressive, working inside against the Angels righthanders more than you would expect for a soft-tossing lefty. In his next start against Oakland, Chen gave up 2 earned runs in 5 innings and took a no decision. In both starts, Chen has worked effectively on both halves of the plate. His "junkball" approach has garnered quite a few bad swings in both games. Tonight, the Tigers will need to stay patient at the plate and force Chen to throw strikes.

While many fans are of the mind that Chen owns the Tigers, the stats say otherwise. He has a 4-3 career record against Detroit with an ERA hovering just under 6. While there is the opportunity for Chen to dominate them (he did last April), there is still a great chance that the Tigers will get to see the overworked Royals’ bullpen. Chen has never pitched more than 6 innings in a start against Detroit, and I don’t see any reason why that will change tonight.

Smyly's first career start didn't come with the same buzz that Jacob Turner's did last July, nor was he as impressive, but he showed a calm presence on the mound that I think will serve him well this season. He worked out of multiple jams and adjusted to what the Rays' hitters were doing over the course of his start. He needs to trust his off-speed stuff a bit more, as hitters will sit on the first pitch fastball if he continues to throw it. I would like to see him throw his cutter a bit more today as well, especially to righthanded hitters.

Avoid Billy Butler at all costs

Billy Butler hits extremely well against lefthanded pitchers and against the Detroit Tigers. Statistics back this up, telling us that he has 24 career doubles in 81 career games against the Tigers. Logic would tell you that putting these two things together would be bad news for us. Billy Butler is not to be trusted.

Outlook

The Royals are currently in free-fall mode, losers in their last 5 games and 7 of 8 after winning their opening series against the Los Angeles Angels. Normally, I'd make a joke about the fact that Bruce Chen is the "ace" of the Royals' pitching staff, but he's been rock solid so far this season. Add in the fact that Smyly is making his second career start, and this game becomes very important for the Royals' psyche moving forward. With no breaks in their schedule coming up in the next month (depending on how you view a trip to Minnesota), this could be a pivotal game for Kansas City. Expect them to come out swinging.

Prediction

The free-swinging Royals get to Smyly early. The offense will need to break out of its mini-funk in order for the Tigers to win this one.

Gameday Reading:

Royals Fall To Verlander, Squander Strong Start From Duffy - Royals Review
"The unfortunate thing about this loss is that a perfectly good start from the southpaw pottery enthusiast Danny Duffy was squandered."

Rally falls short as Royals lose to Tigers 3-2 - Kansas City Star, Rustin Dodd
"The Royals dropped their fifth straight on Monday night in a 3-2 loss to division-rival Detroit. The loss pushed the Royals closer to free-fall mode — a 3-7 record and an 0-4 against the American League Central."

Royals’ Bullpen Taxed Before Series With Tigers - Motor City Bengals, Garret Craig
"Along with a strong lineup, their relief corp was supposed to balance, in part, the effects of a shocking starting staff. But they are quickly learning an unfortunate truth; a bullpen is, invariably, affected negatively when starters rarely last past the fifth inning."

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