Game 16 Preview: Tigers at Angels

Stephen Dunn

The Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels kick off a three game weekend series tonight. Anibal Sanchez and Tommy Hanson are the starting pitchers

Detroit Tigers (9-6) at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (4-10)

Time/Place: 10:05 p.m., Angels Stadium of Anaheim

SB Nation blog: Halos Heaven

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 1.42 ERA) vs. RHP Tommy Hanson (1-1, 6.55 ERA)

After spending four years with the Atlanta Braves, Hanson's American League career has gotten off to a somewhat rocky start. He was solid in his first start against the Texas Rangers, picking up a win and quality start in six innings of work. He had a very Jeremy Bonderman-esque first inning last Friday in a 5-0 loss against the Houston Astros. allowing three runs on five hits and a walk in the first inning. Unlike Bonderman, however, Hanson wasn't able to stop the bleeding afterward and allowed another run in the second and third innings. Of course, this didn't matter, because the Angels got shut out.

Hanson's velocity has decreased over each of the past four seasons, with his fastball now sitting in the high 80s. He has been more reliant on his slider in 2013, throwing it 35% of the time overall in his first two starts and 41% of the time to right-handed hitters. He will also mix in a curveball, which he primarily throws when ahead in the count. It's too early to make any assumptions about Hanson's command, but he has only walked two batters in his first two starts (against a pair of pretty aggressive offenses). It will be interesting to see how he fares against a more patient offense tonight.

Sanchez was excellent in his last start, spreading three hits and four walks over seven innings of work while allowing a single run. He got into trouble in a couple spots, but was able to get out of dodge with a couple of big strikeouts. He made one start against the Angels last season, taking a loss despite allowing three runs in seven strong innings. Like his last start, Sanchez was able to work around any baserunners he allowed in that start against the Angels, but was out-dueled by Zack Greinke in the end.

How do you improve the second spot in your lineup? Put your leadoff hitter there

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has batted Mike Trout second in the Angels' lineup in the team's last six games, citing a need to connect the big bats in the Angels' lineup in order to get things rolling. Translation: this team misses Torii Hunter. Trout has responded well, picking up eight hits in 24 at-bats (including a home run) since the swap. Peter Bourjos -- a career .246/.299/.402 hitter -- has been the primary leadoff hitter in what can only be described as a ploy to create absolute hell on the basepaths in front of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Bourjos is probably the fastest player in the major leagues*, but hasn't gotten on base often enough to put his speed to good use.

*Statement is voided once Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton gets called up.

Outlook

The Tigers and Angels have been evenly matched throughout the past few years, with the Tigers holding a one-game edge in the series over the past three seasons. The Angels swept the Tigers last season in Anaheim behind excellent starting pitching, holding the Tigers to five runs in three games. Thankfully, two of those three pitchers -- Zack Greinke and Ervin Santana -- are no longer on the Angels' roster. The Tigers are playing much better baseball than the Angels at this point, but the Angels are well rested after getting a couple days off due to rain in Minnesota. This gives them the edge tonight.

Prediction

Hanson shuts down the Tigers through seven innings and the Angels add a few insurance runs off the Tigers' bullpen.

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