Minnesota Twins (55-70) at Detroit Tigers (74-52)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Albers has been the toast of the Twin Cities since his debut on August 6th, throwing 18 shutout innings before finally giving up a run to the Chicago White Sox in his third start. He gave up a combined six hits in 17 1/3 innings against the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians -- including a two hit shutout of the Tribe -- but only struck out four combined hitters. The White Sox seemed to figure him out in his last start, scoring five runs in seven innings.
Make no mistake, the 27 year old Albers is not one of the hot young prospects that are suddenly rampant* in the Twins' system. He was drafted in the 10th round of the 2008 draft and missed his age 23 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He dominated out of relief for a year in independent ball in 2010, drawing the Twins' attention. In the three years since, he is 24-10 with a 2.91 ERA across three levels.
*If you haven't heard the name Byron Buxton yet, you will soon.
As you might expect with a left-handed pitcher who didn't hit the bigs until his late 20s, Albers doesn't throw too hard. His fastball sits at 86-87 miles per hour, and his peak velocity this year is 88.6 miles per hour. He has relied heavily on a four-seam/two-seam mix so far, throwing the two fastballs a combined 67% of the time. He also throws a slider, curveball, and changeup.
Somehow, this is only the second time that the Twins will face Justin Verlander this season. The other time, obviously, was Opening Day when Verlander pitched five shutout innings on the frozen tundra of Target Field. Baseball Reference doesn't have a way for me to look up whether he had worn long sleeves before, but it was the first time in recent memory that the normally unflappable Verlander had his forearms covered while on the mound.
Since that day, Verlander's ups and downs have been well documented. He is currently in one of the up-swings, allowing eight earned runs in his last four starts while striking out 28 batters in 29 innings. He was dominant in his last outing, holding the Royals to two runs in eight innings, but took the loss thanks to an impotent offense.
When the sun is out, we have seen the Verlander we know and love. In 15 day games this season, Verlander is 7-4 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. The night game splits are problematic, but are also (a) irrelevant to today's contest, and (b) heavily skewed by that crappy start he had in Texas. Meanwhile, Albers fits two of the "welp, we're doomed" criteria: "rookie pitcher" and "soft-tossing lefty." This will either result in universe-altering paradoxes or a game similar to last night where we see six innings of crap before the offense figures him out and scores a couple runs. I'm fine with either of those options, just as long as we don't see another getaway day bullpen implosion from Phil C- ha, never mind.
Verlander continues to pitch well and the offense comes alive late in the game.