Detroit Tigers (67-45) at Cleveland Indians (62-52)
Time/Place: 7:05 p.m., Progressive Field
SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe
Pitching Matchup: RHP Max Scherzer (16-1, 2.85 ERA) vs. RHP Zach McAllister (4-6, 3.47 ERA)
Many analysts would consider McAllister's good numbers to be partially luck-based. He has a low home run per fly balls rate and his xFIP, which controls for that rate, is 4.49. However, none of his other peripherals are out of line. He has a reasonable 72% strand rate and walks 2.93 batters per nine innings. His BABIP is .295 and his line drive rate, while higher than he would like at 21.9%, is very close to the league average.
He has favorable (for him) home/road splits, but they aren't as drastic as one might assume. McAllister is 3-2 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.12 WHIP at home this year. Despite pitching to more contact -- his strikeout rate on the road is almost double his rate at home -- opposing batters are hitting .231/.286/.379 against him at Progressive Field.
McAllister missed about six weeks with a "long finger sprain*" and hasn't missed a beat since returning. He gave up four runs in five innings against the Seattle Mariners, but has had consecutive outings allowing just two runs. He was particularly impressive in his last outing, striking out seven while walking just one against the Miami Marlins.
*You will notice that this is the same injury that sent Corey Kluber to the disabled list. Apparently there's an epidemic of people flipping each other off in the Tribe clubhouse.
Since July 1st, Max has been even more dominant than usual. In six starts, he has a 2.20 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 41 innings. He hasn't allowed a run since Conor Gillaspie took him deep on July 22nd, a streak of 14 1/3 innings. The Indians got to Max earlier this year, putting up four runs on five hits back in May, but he still went eight innings and got the win thanks to the Tigers offense. In his last two starts against the Tribe, Max has allowed a combined three runs on nine hits in 15 innings.
Can we talk about how great last night's game was?
Yeah, it helps that the Tigers won, but that was an incredible baseball game. I don't know about you, but I'd be all for a playoff series between these two teams. Given Cleveland's 59-41 record against everyone else, it's not crazy to think that they will take a Wild Card spot.
On paper, this game looks completely one-sided. McAllister has had a nice season, but Scherzer is the odds-on favorite for the Cy Young award and has been lights out lately. However, there's a reason they play the games. These Indians have proven to be tougher than their 2011 and 2012 counterparts, and I don't see them rolling over after a couple of tough losses.
McAllister wiggles out of trouble often enough to snap the Tigers' streak.