Game 3 Preview: Tigers at Twins

J. Meric

Hopefully the Tigers offense benefits from a lack of late-afternoon shadows in today's rubber match against the Minnesota Twins.

Detroit Tigers (1-1) at Minnesota Twins (1-1)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Target Field

SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (10-12, 4.59 ERA in 2012) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (0-0, 2.29 ERA in 2012)

Pelfrey only logged 19 2/3 innings of work with the New York Mets last season before having season-ending Tommy John surgery. Prior to that, the former first round pick had shown flashes of his considerable potential. He was 13-11 with a 3.72 ERA in 2008 and 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA in 2010, but mediocre 2009 and 2011 seasons left Mets fans scratching their heads as to what could have been. In his only career appearance against the Tigers (in 2011), Pelfrey allowed four earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Unless Pelfrey has re-tooled his repertoire since having surgery, he relies primarily on a heavy sinker to get ground ball outs. He mixes in a slider to keep hitters honest, but doesn't strike out many batters, as a career strikeout rate of 5.08 batters per nine innings attests. Pelfrey tends to have trouble repeating his mechanics, which gets him into trouble (as you might imagine). Here are his release points from 2010, one of his better seasons.

4600592010030120101101aaaaarelease_medium

via pitchfx.texasleaguers.com

And here is 2011, where his ERA was over a full run higher than the season before.

4600592011030120111201aaaaarelease_medium

via pitchfx.texasleaguers.com

Yeah, that wide spread spells trouble.

Porcello showed some promise during Spring Training by striking out 21 hitters in 24 innings without walking anyone, though he did hit a batter. He scrapped his slider, which was awful, in favor of a more effective curveball. The use and location of his curveball will be something that I examine more closely as the season goes on (PitchFX data is my new addiction, in case you couldn't tell). However, he will need his command today against a Twins lineup that has drawn 12 walks in the first two games of this series.

Outlook

The weather has likely played a role, but three runs per game isn't going to cut it against anyone, even a Twins team that lost 96 games last year. It's still too early to be worried about the bullpen, but it would be nice to be up by enough runs to give the relief corps some low-stress innings in the early season. If Porcello can prove that his spring was more than a Ryan Raburn impersonation, I think the Tigers are in business.

Prediction

Porcello rights the ship with a strong outing and the Tigers take the series in a low-scoring affair.

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