Game 41 Preview: Tigers at Rangers

USA TODAY Sports

Can Anibal Sanchez give the Tigers a second straight victory in Texas? Justin Grimm will look to improve upon his last outing against Detroit, which lasted one inning.

Detroit Tigers (23-17) at Texas Rangers (27-15)

Time/Place: 8:05 p.m., Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

SB Nation blog: Lone Star Ball

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (4-3, 2.05 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Grimm (2-3, 4.28 ERA)

Grimm got off to a great start this year, winning two of his first four starts while allowing a 2.28 ERA. One of those starts was a loss to the Chicago White Sox on May 2nd, but Grimm did his part by allowing three runs in 6 2/3 innings. His last two starts haven't been as impressive, as he has allowed 10 runs in his last 10 innings of work. His command hasn't been great, but he has offset that by striking out a batter per inning. I would expect both of those totals to go down as the year goes on. His home run rate is slightly elevated -- he has an xFIP of 3.93 -- but nothing out of the ordinary if he gets a year's worth of starts in the Texas heat.

Grimm relies primarily on a fastball-curveball combination, along with a changeup that he throws to left-handed hitters. His four-seam fastball rests at 92-93 miles per hour, while his two-seamer sits a hair lower at 90-91 miles per hour. The curveball gets all the way down to 77-78 miles per hour, while the changeup is around 83. He has a nice variance between pitches in terms of velocity, but this has also hurt him a bit. Hitters have been sitting on his fastball in recent starts, and he has allowed 12 extra base hits on that particular pitch this year.

How good has Anibal Sanchez been this season? He allowed two runs in seven innings in his last start against the Houston Astros... and his ERA went up. Sanchez has continued to blow people away in May, striking out 25 batters to just three walks in his three starts this month. He has been a bit lucky in terms of home run rate, as his xFIP is 2.28, but his 1.45 FIP shows that he is off to one heck of a start in 2013. The Rangers are one of the stingiest teams in the majors in terms of strikeout rate and swinging strike rate, so it will be interesting to see how Sanchez attacks their lineup tonight. He did not face them with the Tigers last season, but is 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA against them in his career. He has never pitched in their ballpark.

Outlook

I predicted a grim outcome against Grimm last June, and the Tigers proceeded to hang eight hits and six runs on the young right-hander in an inning of work. That was Grimm's last start of 2012, but it seems like he has learned his lesson so far in 2013. It's easy to predict that he will be better, but how much better will he be? On the other side of the diamond, I don't like how Sanchez matches up with the Rangers, who have a .789 team OPS against right-handers in 2013.

Prediction

Texas gets out to an early lead and holds off a late Tigers comeback.

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