Game 123 Preview: Royals at Tigers

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After a rough day at the office yesterday, Doug Fister will try to right the ship for the Tigers tonight against Wade Davis and the Royals.

Kansas City Royals (64-57) at Detroit Tigers (71-51)

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

SB Nation blog: Royals Review

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Wade Davis (6-9, 5.29 ERA) vs. RHP Doug Fister (10-6, 3.60 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Davis 22 115.2 7.94 3.81 1.09 1.72 4.23 4.28 1.4
Fister 24 155.0 6.68 1.68 0.64 1.22 3.33 3.40 3.3

Oh, what a difference a few months can make. Back in April when the Royals ventured to Comerica Park for the first time, I said this about Davis:

The "Wade Davis as a starting pitcher" experiment has gotten off to a pretty good start in Kansas City.

The Tigers proceeded to hang seven runs (three earned) on Davis in 3 2/3 innings, and he hasn't been the same* since. Davis has stuck in the Royals' rotation all season despite not having an ERA below 4.75 since May 1st. He pitched fairly well against the Tigers back in June, allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings in a 3-2 Royals loss. He has picked things up in his last three starts, allowing just four runs in his last 18 1/3 innings.

One thing that jumps out about Davis' numbers is that his FIP and xFIP are more than a full run lower than his ERA. He gets a decent number of strikeouts, but walks nearly four batters per nine innings. Furthermore, he has allowed a .373 BABIP and a 28.5% line drive rate. Like a maligned Tigers starter with similar peripherals, Davis' struggles aren't all luck-based, but it probably plays a bit of a role.

Also like that maligned fifth starter -- well, the 2012 version -- Davis is allowing some serious platoon splits. He is holding right-handed hitters to a .286/.333/.381 line, but lefties are hitting .343/.423/.535 off him. Part of the reason is because he has basically become a two-pitch pitcher. He throws his mix of fastballs -- including a cutter, if you want to count that separately -- but he has shied away from throwing a changeup or slider, instead sticking with his curveball.

Fister regressed from his usual second half self in his last start, allowing four runs on eight hits in six innings against the Chicago White Sox. While he is not much of a strikeout artist, he only fanned one Chicago batter in that start while walking three. His curveball wasn't as sharp in this outing, garnering just one whiff on 20 pitches. Despite this outing, his numbers are still in great shape: since the break, he is 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.

Outlook

The Tigers pitching staff has held the Royals to just six runs in the first three games of this series, but the offense's disappearance has given the Royals hope. Even then, to get back in the race they need to beat Fister and Max Scherzer in the next two days. While Bruce Chen may be up to the task of slowing down the Tigers' heavy hitters, Davis might not.

Prediction

The bats awaken and the Tigers win.

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