Game 42 Preview: Tigers at Indians

May 6, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (30) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE

Detroit Tigers (20-21) at Cleveland Indians (23-18)

Time/Place: 7:00 p.m., Progressive Field

SB Nation Blog: Let's Go Tribe

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV (Free Game of the Day), Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: Rick Porcello (3-3, 5.12 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (4-3, 5.09 ERA)

Some trade, huh? Jimenez has been nowhere near the ace that the Indians expected to get when they traded four of their best prospects to the Colorado Rockies last July. He has a 5.60 FIP and xFIP to go along with his inflated ERA, and is walking more batters than he strikes out. He is getting tattooed by lefthanded hitters at a .292/.419/.510 clip. Overall, his line drive rate and home run rate are both above his career norms.

Possibly the only thing that Jimenez has going for him is the location of tonight's game. He has a 3.12 ERA at home compared to a 7.65 ERA on the road. I'd hesitate to rely on these splits though, as his home BABIP is .155 and his FIP is 4.81. During his last start, the Indians' announcers suggested that he shelf his split-fingered fastball. Why? Well, because it's been pretty awful this season.

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via pitchfx.texasleaguers.com

He's throwing it quite a bit less than he did last season, instead choosing to rely on his changeup more often. With an 18.7% in play rate (also per Texas Leaguers), it's very hitable.

Porcello's last couple starts haven't been great, but there is hope that he can turn things around. He's giving up home runs at an alarming rate (16.3% HR/FB ratio), including one in each of his last three starts. So what's the good news? Porcello's xFIP is just 3.87 and with a whiff percentage of 8.0%, he's missing more bats than at any point in his career. He's 5-1 against the Indians in his career with a 3.86 ERA, a number that decreases to 3.14 in 7 career starts at Progressive Field.

Just mildly offensive

Despite Asdrubal Cabrera's hot start, the Indians offense ranks 10th in the American League in batting average and 8th in OPS. Jack Hannahan is also hitting out of his mind, but hasn't played since May 13th due to a back injury. Guys like Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner are middling along, especially in the power department. Recently, manager Manny Acta moved Shin-Soo Choo to the leadoff spot, and Choo has responded by hitting .379/.471/.586 in his last 7 games. Not surprisingly, the Indians are 5-2 in that span and have scored 32 runs.

Outlook

The Indians have been fairly average at home, winning just 11 of 23 games. Their recent spurt came after dropping 3 of 4 games in Boston -- who are now a modest 21-21, by the way -- but it remains to be seen if they can keep winning games despite having a pythag record of 20-21. The Tigers finally won a series last weekend, but still haven't won consecutive games since mid-April. Tonight would be the perfect opportunity for this to change.

Prediction

Jimenez gets rocked early, but the Indians bullpen slows down the Tigers offense later on. The result of this one depends on how Porcello pitches.

Gameday Reading:

News and Notes: Chris Perez on Cleveland Attendance - Let's Go Tribe
If Perez doesn't like the boos now, just wait until he falls back to earth in the second half like he did last season.

Know Thy Enemy: 2012 Cleveland Indians - DesigNate Robertson
Rogo might be the only person that can match my dislike (that's putting it nicely) for the Indians.

Cleveland Indians set for first series with AL Central favorites, the Detroit Tigers - Dennis Manoloff, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"The Tigers won the final 10 games against the Indians last year as the bulk of a 12-6 advantage in the season series."

HASTILY MADE CLEVELAND TOURISM VIDEO - YouTube
Is it frowned upon if I link this every time we play the Indians this year? Serious question.

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