Game 71 Preview: Tigers at Pirates

June 17, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (37) pitches during the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Detroit Tigers (34-36) at Pittsburgh Pirates (37-32)

Time/Place: 4:00 p.m., PNC Park

SB Nation Blog: Bucs Dugout

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

Pitching Matchup: Max Scherzer (6-4, 5.17 ERA) vs. Brad Lincoln (3-2, 3.82 ERA)

Lincoln has 17 appearances on the season, but this is only his fifth start. Because of this, he has only logged 37 2/3 innings so far this season -- by comparison, Scherzer has 78 1/3 -- and his stats still have that nice small sample size smell to them. His strikeout rate is 8.60 but he hasn't struck out more than 5 batters in any of his starts. Of course, he also hasn't pitched more than 4 innings in any of his starts since he joined the rotation full time (he went 6 innings in a spot start in May).

Of those three starts, none were particularly impressive. He gave up at least 4 earned runs in each and allowed 4 home runs. Before this stretch, his ERA was 1.04. If this recent sample is any indication, he should stay in the bullpen. Hopefully the Tigers can cement that idea home by knocking Lincoln around today.

Here are some ridiculous numbers for you: against National League teams this season, Scherzer has 35 strikeouts in 21 innings. That's good enough for an Al Alburquerque-esque K/9 rate of 15.0. He is 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA and a WHIP of 1.048. It's scary to think about what he could do if he were still a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Outlook

While he's had his ups and downs, Scherzer's performance in 2012 has definitely decreased the amount of anxiety that I have before he takes the mound every fifth day. He has been much more consistent on the road than at home as well; he has five quality starts and only one start where he allowed more than 3 earned runs.

Meanwhile, the offense needs to pick up the pace. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are a combined 2-for-24 (along with zero walks) in the past three games. With the guys behind them slowly but surely rounding into form, we can't afford to see a prolonged slump from the meat of the order.

Prediction

I would love to be wrong, but Scherzer won't repeat his 15 strikeout performance today.

Gameday Reading:

Pirates Defeat Tigers, 4-1 - Bucs Dugout, Charlie Wilmoth
"Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-4 on the night but did not drive in or score any runs." I DON'T CARE, STOP PITCHING TO HIM!

Noted Tiger Killer A.J. Burnett Kills Tigers - Walkoff Woodward, Grey Papke
"The .500 mark appears to be the new unbreakable ceiling for the Tigers, as this was the second time this week they had a chance to make it there with a victory and the second time they failed."

Pirates Finally Playing Like A Winning Team - Bucs Dugout, Charlie Wilmoth
The Pirates are actually playing better as the year goes on, which goes against pretty much everything we know about everything.

Finally, this video isn't Tigers-related, but well worth watching for those who can't stand Skip Bayless or ESPN in general.

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