Game 66 Preview: Tigers at Twins

Patrick McDermott

Anibal Sanchez will be looking to repeat his last outing against the Twins, when he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning. Samuel Deduno will pitch for the Twins.

Detroit Tigers (37-28) at Minnesota Twins (29-35)

Time/Place: 7:15 p.m., Target Field

SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town

Media: FOX (depressing/shameful broadcast map), Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-5, 2.65 ERA) vs. RHP Samuel Deduno (2-1, 3.47 ERA)

Deduno made his season debut against the Tigers on May 24th, and it didn't go too well. He gave up six runs on nine hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings. Since then, he has been excellent, allowing just three earned runs on 14 hits in his last 18 innings of work. Of those 14 hits only two have gone for extra bases, and he has not allowed a home run since Don Kelly took him deep on the 24th. He has done a great job of keeping the ball out of the air, forcing hitters into a ground ball rate of 62.8% on the season. This looks to be fairly sustainable, given his 58.3% ground ball rate in 15 starts last year.

One thing that has plagued him throughout this three game stretch -- and his whole career, really -- is his command. He has walked 3.86 batters per nine innings this season, including seven in his last three starts. Not to mention, he hit three batters in one start against the Milwaukee Brewers. Still, this is a remarkable improvement from last season, when he walked 53 batters in just 79 innings, a rate of over six base on balls per nine innings. It's even more remarkable when you consider he's getting strike one just 45% of the time, well below the 55% rate he posted last season.

Deduno relies primarily on his four-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s. He throws it nearly 2/3 of the time on the first pitch of an at-bat, and uses it about 55% of the time overall. His breaking pitch is his curveball, which averages about 81 miles per hour. He throws it over 26% of the time in all counts to all hitters, but uses it over 1/3 of the time against right-handed batters, and 56% of the time in two-strike counts. It has been his worst pitch by far in 2013, ranking 2.6 runs below average per 100 pitches thrown. This is despite the fact that no batter has gotten a hit off his curveball this season, according to PitchFX. Go figure. His changeup sits in the mid 80s, and he throws it to both lefties and righties.

Sanchez, on the other hand, would probably love a repeat of Deduno's first start of the season. While the 29 year old Dominican was struggling to get Tigers hitter out, Sanchez was tearing through the Twins' lineup. If not for a Joe Mauer single in the ninth inning, we would have been talking about Anibal's second career no-hitter. Starts like those are why he is 5-1 with a 1.64 ERA at Comerica Park this season. The issue? He's 1-4 with a 3.97 ERA on the road. A lot of this is due to run support -- other than a 10 run outburst in Oakland, the Tigers have scored nine runs in five road outings for Sanchez -- but some of it is on Sanchez as well. He has a 1.471 WHIP on the road this year, nearly double his 0.791 mark at home.

You should probably read this Clete Thomas article

Fridays at Twinkie Town are the best thing about weekend series against the Twins.

Outlook

If it weren't abundantly clear already, the Tigers offense needs to be patient with Deduno on the mound. While his walk rate has improved, he's still good for a few free passes per game, and could likely be coaxed into a couple more with a long at-bat or two. They did an excellent job of this the first time they faced Deduno this year, forcing him to throw at least six pitches in an at-bat on eight separate occasions. That said, they need to take advantage of their opportunities with Deduno in the game. The Twins' bullpen is second in the AL in ERA, first in FIP, and first in fWAR. Combine that with the Tigers' late inning scoring difficulties and it's important that they jump out to another early lead today.

Prediction

Deduno strands a boat load of runners and the Twins scrape across enough runs to pick up a W.

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