Game 75 Preview: Angels at Tigers

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

C.J. Wilson and Rick Porcello are tonight's starters as the Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers begin a three-game series.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (33-43) at Detroit Tigers (42-32)

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

SB Nation blog: Halos Heaven

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV (Free Game of the Day), Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: LHP C.J. Wilson (6-5, 3.61 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (4-4, 4.74 ERA)

Earlier this season, Wilson held the Tigers to three runs in six innings in the final game of that awful three-game sweep in Los Angeles. In typical C.J. Wilson fashion, he allowed five hits and four walks, but wiggled his way out of trouble with the bases loaded in each of the first two innings. Since then, Wilson has continued to pitch well, allowing a 3.44 ERA in his 11 starts since pitching against the Tigers.

Overall, 2013 has been a typical season for Wilson. He is striking out 8.08 batters per nine innings, but still walks 3.80 batters per nine. I'm fairly certain the phrase "effectively wild" is in his contract somewhere. His 72.3% strand rate is above average, as usual. His 3.74 FIP and 3.94 xFIP are slightly above his ERA. His line drive rate is slightly above career norms, but at 21.2% it's not so outrageous that you would expect a significant change in his statistics going forward.

Since Wilson's peripheral stats aren't interesting whatsoever -- and that could partially be because he's C.J. Wilson* -- let's look at some possibly meaningless small sample sizes. He's 1-2 with a 4.94 ERA in 10 career outings (four starts) against the Tigers, largely due to an 8.22 ERA at Comerica Park. In his two career starts at Comerica, he has allowed 11 runs in 12 2/3 innings. Prince Fielder is 5-for-9 against Wilson, while Miguel Cabrera is 5-for-15 with a pair of doubles. Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, and Austin Jackson are all hitting under .160 against him in 20+ plate appearances.

*If it's not clear by now, I can't stand watching Wilson pitch. How someone becomes a junkball pitcher despite throwing 92-93 miles per hour is beyond me, but Wilson has nearly perfected the art. I question whether he would get anyone out if opposing hitters didn't swing at any of his pitches.

Last time Porcello faced the Angels, bad things happened. Since then, Porcello is 4-2 with a 3.43 ERA in 10 starts. His last outing was a mini-repeat of that start in L.A. when he allowed six runs on seven hits in the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles. Unlike that start in L.A., Porcello got out of the inning and was able to pitch two more scoreless innings, saving the bullpen... sort of. They imploded after that, but at least it was in three innings instead of five.

This might hurt a little...

Yesterday marked the Tigers' last scheduled off day before the All-Star Break. They will play 20 games in 20 days, including an 11-game road trip through Tampa, Toronto, and Cleveland. It's no west coast swing, but we could be looking at one tired ball club by the time the Tigers face the Tribe on July 5th. Add in a couple home series against the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers, and the AL Central race could look much different by the time the mid-summer classic rolls around.

The good parts? This is the last time that the Tigers will face the Angels, Rays, and Rangers this season. They are not currently scheduled to face the likes of Mark Buehrle, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Yu Darvish. The Blue Jays, winners of 12 straight, will be coming off a seven game road trip when the Tigers roll into town, and the Indians will be finishing an 11-game road swing of their own.

Outlook

Porcello failed miserably in his start against the Angels partially because he didn't have an out pitch, and once the Angels put the ball into play their speed took over. Add in an infield defense with practically zero range, and you get nine runs allowed in less than an inning. Since then, Porcello has been striking out nearly a batter per inning thanks to improvements in his curveball and changeup. If Porcello can continue to strike batters out -- the magical barrier appears to be five strikeouts -- then he will be successful. Either way, he's going to make it deeper into the game than last time.

Prediction

Porcello pitches a scoreless first inning tonight.

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