Detroit Tigers (82-60) at Kansas City Royals (74-68)
Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation blog: Royals Review
Pitching Matchup: RHP Doug Fister (12-7, 3.66 ERA) vs. LHP Bruce Chen (6-2, 2.81 ERA)
Chen followed up his rough outing in Detroit in August with a worse showing against the Washington Nationals, allowing seven runs on six hits and five walks in 3 2/3 innings. It was the first time he had allowed five free passes in a start since August of 2010 and only the second time he has allowed at least three walks in an outing this year. He has rebounded nicely in his last two starts, allowing a combined three runs and one walk in 11 2/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners.
Overall, Chen's numbers have improved since he moved to the rotation just before the All-Star Break. His 3.03 ERA as a starter is higher than his 2.41 ERA in relief, but his WHIP, OPS allowed, and strikeout-to-walk ratio are all much better in the rotation. His .220 BABIP and 77.1% strand rate are probably unsustainable. These are partially thanks to his definitely unsustainable 15.6% pop-up rate and a 53.9% fly ball rate that would be a career high.
Like Justin Verlander before him, Fister rebounded from his awful showing against the A's to toss seven shutout innings in his next start. Fister held the Boston Red Sox to just four hits in a 3-0 Tigers win on Labor Day. He was a bit shaky early, issuing three of his four walks and a hit batter in the first two innings. He was excellent for the next few innings before getting into some trouble in the seventh inning, but he wiggled out of a jam to preserve the Tigers' lead.
Fister has been solid against the Royals this year, allowing a 3.10 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in three starts. His career numbers at Kauffman Stadium are unremarkable; he's 2-3 with a 3.81 ERA in five outings (four starts) in Kansas City in his career. Two of those starts have come this season, and he has only allowed four runs in 14 innings.
While Bruce Chen's career numbers against the Tigers aren't nearly as good as some would believe, he always seems to have one dominant outing against Detroit every year. Last season, he threw eight shutout innings to beat the Tigers 1-0 in a pivotal late August matchup at Kauffman Stadium. In order to prevent this, we may see Jim Leyland try to take advantage of Chen's severe reverse splits. Leyland started Andy Dirks and Ramon Santiago against Chen in August and they combined to go two-for-eight with a run scored and an RBI.
Cy Chen makes his yearly appearance today and the Tigers drop the series.