Game 7 Preview: Blue Jays at Tigers

USA TODAY Sports

The revamped Toronto Blue Jays come to Detroit for a three game series. Brandon Morrow and Anibal Sanchez are your starting pitchers today.

Toronto Blue Jays (2-4) at Detroit Tigers (3-3)

Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Bluebird Banter

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Brandon Morrow (0-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Morrow was excellent against the Cleveland Indians last Wednesday, striking out eight batters in six innings while allowing just one run. He featured a fastball averaging 95 miles per hour and a biting slider that elicited several ugly swings from Indians hitters. His slider was his best pitch in 2012, but his fastball also ranked above league average. He also features a splitter that acts more like a changeup, averaging around 83 mph while fading away from left-handed hitters.

Last season, Morrow finally put all the pieces together, going 10-7 with a 2.96 ERA with 108 strikeouts. He was sidelined with an oblique injury for over two months, limiting him to just 124 1/3 innings in 21 starts. His FIP was a bit elevated at 3.65, but this was largely due to a .252 BABIP and 77.3% strand rate. While these factors could be luck related, it seems like this is a product of Morrow maturing as a pitcher. Early returns in 2013 definitely support the latter.

I talked at length (sort of) about Sanchez's changeup in last week's game preview, and it didn't fail him against the Twins. Sanchez threw both his changeup and slider frequently against the Twins, striking out five hitters in five innings. He didn't have great fastball command, which is why he was so inefficient. Unless Detroit gets blasted by that winter storm moving across the midwestern U.S. right now, expect him to be able to feel his fingers command his fastball better. He pitched well against the Blue Jays at Comerica Park last season, allowing just one earned run in 6 2/3 innings on August 22nd.

Fun with small sample sizes

  • J.P. Arencibia is slugging .870.
  • Brett Cecil has a strikeout rate of 19.64 batters per nine innings.
  • Emilio Bonifacio is on pace to commit 81 errors this season.
  • Phil Coke's ERA is 16.20.
  • ...which is less than half of Brayan Villarreal's 33.75 ERA.
  • Al Alburquerque has a strikeout rate of 13.50 batters per nine innings... wait, that's normal.

Outlook

Overall, Jays fans (well, the smart ones) don't seem to be too worried about their team's slow start, and for good reason. Aside from all of the statistical oddities above (and countless others), Brett Lawrie is on the disabled list, Jose Bautista has missed a few games, and the Jays' pitchers aren't going to allow nearly two home runs per nine innings all season long. The same goes for the Tigers. Victor Martinez has a .158 BABIP despite hitting the ball on the screws nearly every time he has come to the plate this year. The bullpen won't be a complete dumpster fire all season long (we hope), and the big bats are going to come through more often than not.

Prediction

Morrow outpitches Sanchez and the Blue Jays pull away late against the Tigers' bullpen.

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