Game 86 Preview: Tigers at Indians

The Return - USA TODAY Sports

Anibal Sanchez will make his first start since June 15th today against the Cleveland Indians. Carlos Carrasco will start for the Tribe.

Detroit Tigers (47-38) at Cleveland Indians (45-41)

Time/Place: 4:05 p.m., Progressive Field

SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-5, 2.76 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (0-3, 8.17 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Sanchez 13 81.2 11.13 2.53 0.44 1.15 2.07 2.75 3.2
Carrasco 5 25.1 4.62 4.26 0.71 1.93 4.61 5.12 0.1

Carrasco has made three starts since allowing six runs on 10 hits at Comerica Park on June 8th. He flashed his considerable potential in a start against the Kansas City Royals, allowing one run in 7 1/3 innings. The last two starts, however, have shown why Carrasco has never gotten close to his ceiling. He walked four Twins hitters in just 4 2/3 innings in one start, and allowed six runs on 10 hits to the Chicago White Sox in his last major league start. He did make it through 5 2/3 innings this time, however, marking the second time he has pitched 5+ innings this year.

If that last paragraph isn't an indictment into how bad Carrasco has been this year, the strikeout and walk rates listed above -- not to mention pretty much everything else in that table -- should paint a clearer picture. He has been unable to regain the command he had from 2009-2011, leading to elevated hit and walk rates in 2013. His elevated BABIP and low strand rates could be considered unsustainable in a vacuum, but no one that has watched Carrasco pitch this year would call his overall numbers "unlucky." His ERA won't stay at 8.17, but he might not be around long enough to see it dip too much lower.

The real story of today's game, however, is the return of Anibal Sanchez from the disabled list. Anibal was on a collision course with his first All-Star game appearance prior to hitting the DL, but a couple of strong starts prior to the break could give Jim Leyland a reason to bring him to New York with the American League roster. His numbers are definitely worthy. He is second in the league in strikeout rate (to Yu Darvish), first in FIP, tied for third in fWAR, and fourth in SIERA among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched. If he isn't on the team, it will be because of either (a) team representative requirements, or (b) fewer innings than other deserving pitchers.

While his overall numbers are stellar, Sanchez has been fairly pedestrian on the road in 2013. He is just 1-4 with a 4.06 ERA away from home, and he has a 2.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- which is still decent, but it pales in comparison to his otherworldly 7.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio at home. He has a 1.566 WHIP away from Comerica Park as well.

Outlook

Jim Leyland has already announced that Sanchez will be on a pitch count during today's game, but hasn't yet determined exactly what that number will be. For reference, Doug Fister was held to 73 pitches after returning from the DL in 2012. However, Fister was able to throw a full rehab start (68 pitches) prior to rejoining the Tigers, whereas Sanchez only threw 23 pitches in his rehab start before being hit in the leg by a line drive. If Sanchez is efficient, he should be able to get through 5-6 innings before turning the game over to the bullpen. If not, we will likely see a healthy dose of Luke Putkonen, something Leyland also hinted at after last night's game.

Regardless, the Tigers offense should be trusted to carry the torch today. Indians fans will be the first to tell you that Carrasco hasn't been very good this season, and his history against the Tigers is anything but promising. He has a career 9.50 ERA and 2.556 WHIP against Detroit in four starts. I didn't give Rick Porcello much of a chance to steal a game from Justin Masterson yesterday, but seeing Carrasco shut down the Tigers lineup would be even more shocking.

Prediction

Sanchez struggles to make it through five innings but the offense keeps rolling against Carrasco.

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