Game 140 Preview: Tigers at Red Sox

Jared Wickerham

The Tigers can move within a half game of the best record in the American League tonight. Standing in their way is right-hander Ryan Dempster, who has struggled in 2013. Rick Porcello will start for the Tigers.

Detroit Tigers (81-58) at Boston Red Sox (83-57)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Fenway Park

SB Nation blog: Over the Monster

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (11-7, 4.44 ERA) vs. RHP Ryan Dempster (7-9, 4.75 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Porcello 25 148.0 6.75 2.13 0.85 1.30 3.52 3.49 2.6
Dempster 26 151.2 8.13 3.98 1.42 1.46 4.71 4.26 1.2

In nine seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Ryan Dempster racked up a 67-66 record, 3.74 ERA, and 1.32 WHIP. He was traded from the Cubs to the Texas Rangers last July and things haven't really been the same. Since coming to the American League, Dempster has a 4.85 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is similar, but he is giving up a lot more home runs -- an understandable feat, given his home ballparks in the AL.

Lately, Dempster has been awful. He has a 6.10 ERA and 1.52 WHIP since the All-Star Break with two quality starts in seven outings. Looking deeper, those two quality starts were against a pair of last place teams: the Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. The flukey part? He is allowing home runs and walks at a lower clip compared to his season averages, though 3.7 walks per nine innings is nothing to write home about.

Dempster was once able to sit at 92-93 miles per hour with his fastball, but those days seem to be long gone. His velocity has declined in each of the past three seasons, and he is barely averaging 90 miles per hour with his four-seam fastball these days. His slider has fallen off as well, ranking below average per 100 pitches for the second time in the last three seasons. His splitter, which he uses most often when ahead in the count, is still effective, rating 1.42 runs above average per 100 pitches.

Rick Porcello has gotten back on track in his last couple starts, allowing five runs in 12 2/3 innings against the Mets and Indians. He wasn't very efficient against the Tribe, hitting the 100-pitch plateau in just 5 2/3 innings, but limited the Tribe to just one run before Al Alburquerque walked home one of his inherited runners. Given the situation -- Porcello was pitching with a big league against a division rival he has seen several times this season -- it was a solid outing. He hasn't faced the Red Sox since August 1, 2012 when he allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings in a Tigers victory at Fenway Park.

Before you start complaining about a night getaway game...

The Tigers are off tomorrow, while the Red Sox have to travel to New York. They're doing it to themselves. If you want day baseball, Yu Darvish pitches at 3:30 today.

Outlook

Despite the Tigers and Red Sox having the two best offenses in the American League, runs have been at a premium in this series. That will probably change tonight, as both teams send their weakest starters to the hill. Porcello has struggled against the Red Sox in his career -- he has a 9.00 ERA against them in four starts -- while Dempster has seemingly failed to adjust to the American League.

Regardless of the outcome, the Red Sox will leave tonight's game with the American League's best record. However, their next 13 games and 16 of their final 21 games are against AL East teams vying for a Wild Card slot, while the Tigers only have six games remaining against teams above .500. It will help the Tigers' chances at home field throughout the playoffs to win tonight, but a loss is far from the end of the world.

Prediction

The Tigers win a seesaw battle with a couple of clutch hits from the bottom of the order.

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