Game 83 Preview: Tigers at Blue Jays

USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson will be tasked with saving his bullpen, rebounding from his last start, and going toe-to-toe with the undefeated Max Scherzer. Meanwhile, Scherzer will look to extend his franchise-best start to the season and guarantee at least a split with the Jays.

Detroit Tigers (44-38) at Toronto Blue Jays (41-42)

Time/Place: 7:07 p.m., Rogers Centre

SB Nation blog: Bluebird Banter

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Max Scherzer (12-0, 3.10 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Johnson (1-2, 5.21 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Scherzer 16 110.1 10.69 2.04 0.90 0.90 2.68 2.61 3.4
Johnson 9 48.1 9.12 3.35 1.12 1.59 3.82 3.75 0.8

Johnson's worst outing of the season came against the Tigers in Detroit back on April 11th. He allowed six runs on seven hits in just 1 1/3 innings before giving way to the Jays' bullpen. He made a couple more starts before landing on the disabled list for nearly six weeks with triceps inflammation. Since returning in early June, Johnson is 1-1 with a 4.08 ERA, a 3.26 FIP, 30 strikeouts, and nine walks in 28 2/3 innings. His last couple starts haven't been as great as the above line suggests, though. In his last start, he allowed five runs on eight hits in just 3 1/3 innings to the Boston Red Sox.

Overall, Johnson's 2013 number suggest that he has been a little unlucky. He has a .353 BABIP and 69.0% strand rate, both of which are much worse than his career norms. His 23.5% line drive rate is very 2012-esque, but his other peripherals are much similar to the Johnson that was a force for the Miami Marlins from 2009 to 2011. His walk and home run rates are still a bit elevated, but his current strikeout rate is the highest of his career and his 10.4% swinging strike percentage is his highest since 2010. If Johnson can regain his command, he could put together a solid second half heading into free agency this offseason.

On the other hand, Scherzer's improved command continues to be the biggest reason for his ascent from "pretty good" to "heterochromatic cyborg hell-bent on world domination." His home run rate is slightly lower than in 2012, but so is his strand rate. Meanwhile, his walk rate is much lower, and he has apparently decided that he doesn't want to give up hits anymore. Additionally, he has finally passed Yu Darvish for the lowest SIERA in the American League, at 2.61.

Jays done playing with Wang, Twitter explodes

As mentioned in last night's game recap, the Blue Jays designated Chien-Ming Wang for assignment shortly after the game. Instead of following the suggestion at Bluebird Banter of calling up former Tigers farmhand Thad Weber, the Jays decided to call up right-hander Todd Redmond. This sparked a flurry of anger and confusion from Jays fans on Twitter.

Outlook

Tonight, the Blue Jays will be relying on Johnson to give them at least six innings in order to save a bullpen that logged 7 1/3 innings in last night's contest. In order to do so, he will need to do a better job of getting ahead of hitters. He threw first-pitch strikes to 9 of the 13 hitter he faced on April 11th, but was unable to put hitters away due to poor command of his secondary pitches. In his last start, his command of those pitches -- his slider, in particular -- was better but he wasn't able to keep his fastball down in the zone.

Scherzer hasn't faced the Blue Jays this season, but I'm not sure what sort of conclusions we could draw from that outing. He is white-hot right now, and is getting the kind of run support that other Tigers pitchers aren't getting. He has allowed just 14 earned runs in his last eight starts while the offense has scored in five runs in seven of the eight games. The most telling stat? The Tigers are 13-3 when Scherzer takes the mound this season.

Prediction

There's no reason to stop now: Scherzer gets win number 13.

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