Game 19 Preview: Royals at Tigers

Scott Cunningham

The Tigers return home to Comerica Park, where they won eight of their nine meetings against the Kansas City Royals last season.

Kansas City Royals (10-7) at Detroit Tigers (9-9)

Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Royals Review

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Wade Davis (2-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (1-0, 2.84 ERA)

The "Wade Davis as a starting pitcher" experiment has gotten off to a pretty good start in Kansas City. After a no-decision in his first start, Davis has pitched back-to-back scoreless outings to pick up his first two wins of the year. In his last outing, he shut down the red-hot Atlanta Braves for seven innings. The Royals' 1-0 victory snapped a 10-game Braves winning streak. Davis got the benefit of a large strike zone from home plate umpire Doug Eddings, but make no mistake: he was dealing.

Davis' four-seam fastball sits in the low 90s, but he has touched as high as 94 miles per hour this season. He also throws a cut fastball, which has some excellent late movement when he has it working like he did against the Braves.

Wadedavis_cutter_4-17-13_medium

Chris Johnson's face after that swing is worth a mention.

Wadedavis_cutter2_4-17-13_medium

Davis also features a curveball in the mid-80s that he is comfortable throwing in all counts. He held an aggressive Braves lineup at bay by using the curveball when behind in the count and on the first pitch of at-bats. This, plus his command of the inner third of the plate, kept the Braves off balance all game long.

Scherzer, on the other hand, needs no introduction after his last start. But since I'm GIF'ing stuff, here's a reminder of what he did to the hapless Seattle Mariners.

Scherzer_ryank_4-17-13_medium

Scherzer's slider and changeup continue to be unhitable. Opposing hitters are whiffing on 31.8% of sliders and 25% of changeups this year, numbers which are probably unsustainable but still encouraging for the rest of the year. His fastball velocity is down a little bit, which seems to be a widespread issue, and he isn't getting quite as many swings-and-misses on the heater. He was dominant against the Royals last year, allowing four runs in 17 innings and winning two of his three* starts.

*His third start against the Royals was in the last game of the season, and he probably would have won that game too had he not only pitched four innings.

The part where I talk about stats and then mention that Miguel Tejada is on their team

Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain have gotten off to hot starts for the Royals this year. Gordon is hitting .342/.368/.507 with 10 RBI in 17 games. His walk rate is way down and he has a .421 BABIP, but an .875 OPS is a pretty reasonable expectation for Gordon this year. Cain, on the other hand, is hitting .368/.431/.509 with a .455 BABIP. He will come back to earth soon, hopefully sometime before 7:00 p.m. this evening. On the other end of the spectrum, Billy Butler is hitting .216. He won't stay like this for long, especially considering he has a .216 BABIP and a line drive rate of 20%. Third baseman Mike Moustakas has an OPS of .419 and looks utterly bewildered as to why he has a large wooden stick in his hands at times. Miguel Tejada has two hits in nine at-bats.

Outlook

The Tigers dominated the Royals last year, winning 13 of the 18 meetings between the two clubs. The Tigers won eight of the nine games at Comerica Park, outscoring Kansas City 48-26. Other than the changes made to the rotation, the Royals' roster remains largely intact from 2012. They have struggled to score runs so far in 2013, averaging four runs per game. Davis is pitching well, but Scherzer has been better -- his FIP is two (!) runs lower than Davis' -- and the Tigers are returning to their comfort zone at home. It might take a little while for the offense to wake up, but I think they will be able to chase Davis in the later innings and pick up a much-needed victory.

Prediction

Victor Martinez hits his first home run of the season tonight.

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