Game 128 Preview: Tigers at Royals

Detroit Tigers (69-58) at Kansas City Royals (56-71)

Time/Place: 8:00 p.m., Kaufmann Stadium

SB Nation Blog: Royals Review

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (12-7, 2.50 ERA) vs. RHP Luis Mendoza (7-9, 4.26 ERA)

Despite having 18 starts and 23 appearances to his name this season, Mendoza hasn't pitched against the Tigers yet in 2012. He started off the season by getting knocked around in his first few starts, allowing an ERA of 6.00 in April. Since then, his numbers have steadily improved as the season has gone on. In August, Mendoza is 3-2 with a 3.66 ERA in 32 innings. His August FIP is 4.81, largely due to a drop in strikeout rate over the course of the month. A BABIP of .240 and strand rate of 78.5% further indicates that Mendoza might be due for a bit of regression. Small sample sizes are fun.

Overall, Mendoza's numbers against the Tigers are not pretty. He is 1-1 against them in his career with a 8.80 ERA in 15 1/3 innings. However, almost half of those innings came in a start against Detroit late last season where he pitched 7 innings of one-run ball in a 10-2 Royals win. His only other career start against the Tigers came in 2008 as a member of the Texas Rangers, and it didn't last long: he allowed 5 runs (2 earned) in less than 2 innings in a 19-6 Tigers win.

In doing these previews all season, I've found it difficult to say how awesome Justin Verlander is in a slightly different way every time he takes the mound. However, it's much easier when he faces the Royals. JV is 14-2 with a 2.36 ERA against Kansas City in his career. These numbers improve to 9-2 and 1.83, respectively, at Kaufmann Stadium. This. Is. Bananas.

What's New?

The Royals are 19-24 in the second half and have been outscored by 13 runs in those games. Since sweeping the Chicago White Sox last week (thanks guys!), the Royals went 2-5 on a road trip to Tampa and Boston. Looking closer, this is how the second half has gone for KC. They are 10-5 against the AL Central (9-3 against Chicago and Cleveland) since the All-Star Break, but just 9-19 against everyone else. Billy Butler is still hitting everything and will continue to torture us. Eric Hosmer has hit well over the last couple weeks and may be breaking out of his season-long funk. Mike Moustakas, on the other hand, has been ice cold in August. Gene Lamont will be well-informed to know that Jeff Francoeur still has a cannon for an arm. If Jhonny Peralta (or anyone else, for that matter) gets thrown out at 3rd base or home plate by Francoeur in this series, I might put my foot through my computer screen.

Outlook

With Kansas City's recent history of playing well at the wrong times (see: 2006, 2009), the 10 games that these two teams have remaining against each other worry me a bit. That being said, I have no such concerns about tonight's game. The Tigers have a decent history against Mendoza -- minus a meaningless game last year after they had already locked up the division -- and Verlander treats Kaufmann Stadium like it's his own personal playground.

Prediction

Verlander goes 8 strong innings and the Tigers pick up a game on the White Sox tonight.

Gameday Reading

Is Alcides Escobar Hitting the Ball Harder? - Royals Review, Jeff Zimmerman
"Escobar is showing some signs of the pulling the ball more this year and therefore has more bat speed when he hits the ball."

Royals not that far from being a good team - Kansas City Star, Sam Mellinger
Yeah, being 13 games back in late August is a cakewalk to a division title.

Tigers vs Angels Series Recap - Walkoff Woodward, Cameron Scott
"The Tigers are winning close games often, and in this series, they outscored the Angels by 4 runs total in the 3 games. Not a huge margin, but a positive margin, indeed."

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