Game 144 Preview: Tigers at Indians

September 9, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) pitches in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Detroit Tigers (76-67) at Cleveland Indians (60-85)

Time/Place: 4:00 p.m., Progressive Field

SB Nation Blog: Let's Go Tribe

Media: FOX (broadcast map), Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (7-12, 4.07 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (11-13, 4.96 ERA)

Masterson's last start didn't go so well, allowing six earned runs in a 7-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins. This has continued the Jekyll-and-Hyde type of pattern that Masterson has followed for the past month or so, alternating good starts -- like his outing on September 4th against the Tigers -- with a bad one, such as the aforementioned loss to the Twins. Masterson has done the same thing with his starts against the Tigers this season, sandwiching a poor outing between two stellar efforts.

Overall, Masterson's struggles this season are largely due to a regression from the excellent form he showed in 2011. Namely, his walk rate has ballooned from a career-best 2.71 per 9 innings to 3.75 per 9 innings. While the latter number is much closer to his career mark, many were expecting to see more of the 2011 Masterson this year as a sign that he was progressing into the #1 pitcher that Cleveland hoped he would become when trading away Victor Martinez in 2009.

Sanchez, meanwhile, has quietly strung together four consecutive quality starts. I say "quietly," because Sanchez is just 1-2 in those starts thanks to the offense scoring a total of seven runs in those four games. His 1.69 ERA and 15 strikeouts (compared to just 3 walks) are the kind of numbers that the Tigers front office envisioned when trading away Jacob Turner -- who pitched seven shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds last night, but struck out three times.

FYI

If you're one of the lucky 12 people that can actually see this game, Mario Impemba and Tom Verducci will be on the call. Everyone else? Have fun with Buck and McCarver.

Outlook

If a game is played but you can't watch it due to archaic broadcasting blackout rules, did it really happen?

Anyway, you can basically assume that each and every game from here on out can be considered the biggest game of the season. The Tigers will look to get out to an early lead on Masterson, a pitcher that they have had quite a bit of success against in years past. Sanchez, who has struggled this season when pitching on an extra day's rest, will look to continue his run of success. He has two solid outings to his name against the Indians already. I see no reason why he won't add a third to that list.

Prediction

Sanchez outduels Masterson in a low-scoring affair.

Gameday Reading:

Game 145: Tigers 4, Indians 0 - Let's Go Tribe
This is the kind of game graph that I like to see.

Cleveland Indians produce nothing in loss to Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers - The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dennis Manoloff
It took everything that this writer had to not pen "losses on losses on losses."

Anibal Sanchez earning Tigers' confidence - The Detroit News, Tom Gage
As mentioned above, Sanchez is settling in nicely in the American League.

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