Minnesota Twins (54-69) at Detroit Tigers (73-51)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Pitching Matchup: RHP Mike Pelfrey (4-10, 5.26 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (9-6, 4.33 ERA)
Pelfrey last faced the Tigers in June, allowing five runs in 5 2/3 innings at Comerica Park, bringing his ERA up to 6.85. Since then, he hasn't been too bad. In 12 starts surrounding a short DL stint for a back strain, Pelfrey has a 4.19 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. His record is just 1-5, but the Twins are 6-6 in those 12 games. He has struggled in his last four starts, allowing a 5.75 ERA and 1.82 WHIP.
While his 5.26 ERA this season isn't pretty, his 4.21 FIP and .334 BABIP suggest that Pelfrey has been a bit unlucky. He has allowed an 18.8% line drive rate with otherwise boring peripherals. His home run rate is a bit low, but nothing else stands out. A combination of poor defense -- the Twins are 25th in Major League Baseball in defensive efficiency -- and bad luck have hurt his overall numbers.
Pelfrey has allowed slightly reversed platoon splits this year, with righties hitting .335/.380/.434 off the 29 year old right-hander. He has still allowed a .795 OPS to left-handers though, thanks to a higher walk rate and higher slugging average compared to righties. Of the 11 home runs he has allowed this season, eight have come against left-handed hitters. Prince Fielder and Andy Dirks have already taken him deep this season.
Porcello's three starts against the Twins this year can be described perfectly by the old movie title "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." I won't get into specifics since two of them didn't end well for the Tigers, but the silver lining is that his good outing against the Twins came in his last start against them. On June 14th, he allowed just three hits in seven shutout innings at Target Field in a 4-0 Tigers win. It was the first of three times that Porcello has thrown seven shutout innings in a start this season. Oddly enough, the other two also came on the road against divisional foes. Porcello is 6-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 10 starts against the AL Central in 2013.
The part where I still worry that Joe Mauer will steal Miguel Cabrera's batting title
Thankfully, not even the Death by Opposite Field Papercuts approach of the evil sorcerer better known as Joe Mauer is likely to catch Cabrera's .360 average, but Mauer is doing his damnedest to make it a contest. Since the All-Star Break, Mauer is hitting .337/.410/.489. Of his 31 hits since the break, only eight have gone for extra bases. He is hitting a very un-Mauer-like .273 in 33 career at-bats against Porcello, which probably means he will go 3-for-4 tonight.
The New York Mets did the Twins a solid yesterday, knocking starter Kyle Gibson out in the fourth inning and taxing the Twins' bullpen for 5 1/3 innings. The majority of their pen should be available today, but innings eater Anthony Swarzak won't be one of those names. If the Tigers can knock Pelfrey out early, it would force Ron Gardenhire to reach deep into his bullpen for innings, setting the Tigers up nicely for the rest of the series.
Andy Dirks homers off Pelfrey again tonight.