Game 13 Preview: Rangers at Tigers

Apr 14, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli (25) talks with starting pitcher Yu Darvish (11) in the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Rangers won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Texas Rangers (10-2) at Detroit Tigers (9-3)

Time/Place: 7:00 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation Blog: Lone Star Ball

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

Pitching Matchup: Yu Darvish (1-0, 4.76 ERA) vs. Adam Wilk (0-1, 3.60 ERA)

Yu, dear reader, are in for a treat this evening (oh come on, Yu knew that was coming). Darvish and the Japanese media circus that follows his every move will hit Comerica Park this evening to start off a 4-game series. Darvish was roughed up in his first career start, giving up 4 runs to the Seattle Mariners in the first inning alone. In his second start, Darvish seemed much more relaxed, giving up 2 runs (one earned) in 5 2/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins.

Darvish changed his pitching motion between starts -- eliminating the overhead movement as he steps backward to begin his windup -- in hopes of improving his location. He seemed to do a better job of hitting his spots, but still had some trouble with his command. He was walked 4 batters in each of his first two starts. Expect the Tigers to stay patient at the plate today.

Wilk's last start ended prematurely when he was struck in the left shoulder by a Prince Fielder line drive. He was very efficient, needing just 62 pitches to get through 5 innings. Unfortunately, Gavin Floyd was better and Wilk took the loss despite giving up just two runs (both on solo home runs). He will be pitching in a more forgiving ballpark this time around, but the Rangers' lineup might make him wish he were back in Chicago. The Rangers are hitting a blistering .321/.374/.527 against lefties this season. If Wilk isn't perfect, he will be pounded.

More than just offense

Despite losing Cliff Lee to free agency after the 2010 season, the Rangers have quietly built one of the best rotations in the major leagues. They lead the majors in quality starts, are 2nd in ERA, and 5th in WHIP so far this season. 2011 Tiger killer Alexi Ogando has moved to the bullpen, but each of the other starters is capable of shutting down the opposing team on any given day. Luckily for the Tigers, they will miss lefthander Derek Holland this weekend, who is the best of the bunch in my opinion. He's also hilarious, so hope that he gets interviewed at some point.

Outlook

I don't buy the idea that this weekend's series will "tell us a lot about this team" or is a "2012 ALCS Preview." Yes, these are two very good teams, but it's still very early. A lot can change between now and October. What I will be looking for is how the three humans pitching for the Tigers this weekend work against a loaded Texas lineup. Today, I want to see how Wilk fares knowing that every hitter in this lineup can take him deep if he makes a mistake. He was aggressive against Chicago and it paid off for him; I'd like to see whether he maintains this approach.

Prediction

Offense. Lots of offense.

Gameday Reading:

Harrison, Darvish flip-flop spots in rotation - MLB.com, T.R. Sullivan
Manager Ron Washington wants to keep Darvish on his normal pitching schedule to get him used to the American game.

Michael Young out of the lineup, Mark Melancon optioned - Lone Star Ball, Adam J. Morris
Young missed yesterday's game against the Boston Red Sox because of a stiff back. We'll see if that limits his playing time this weekend.

Rangers and Ian Kinsler agree to five-year, $75 million contract extension - HardballTalk, D.J. Short
I was originally going to have a separate bullet about Kinsler that only said "Pay the man." However, they did, and early enough that I did not look like a fool with an unnecessary bullet point.

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