Game 3 Preview: Orioles at Tigers

Leon Halip

Anibal Sanchez will make his season debut a day later as the Tigers welcome the Baltimore Orioles to town.

Baltimore Orioles (1-2) at Detroit Tigers (2-0)

Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Camden Chat

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Miguel Gonzalez (11-8, 3.78 ERA in 2013) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57 ERA in 2013)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Gonzalez 28 171.1 6.30 2.78 1.26 1.23 4.45 4.34 1.7
Sanchez 29 182.0 9.99 2.67 0.45 1.15 2.39 3.03 6.2

Like many a pitcher who has taken the mound at Camden Yards since the stadium opened in 1989, Gonzalez has homer troubles. He has given up 37 dingers in just 276 2/3 innings, a rate of 1.20 per nine innings. Of the 24 home runs he allowed in 2013, only nine came on the road. More surprising is that Gonzalez gave up 17 of those 24 homers to right-handed batters, who also had a higher slugging average against him in 2012. This isn't to say that Gonzalez has true reverse platoon splits, however. He walks lefties at a higher rate than righties, resulting in a higher career on-base percentage for lefties in his two big league seasons.

Part of the reason for Gonzalez's ability to limit left-handed power is his high usage of a split-change, which resulted in a 59.2% ground ball rate against lefties in 2013. He used the split-change over 25% of the time against lefties in 2013, and only half as often against righties. The fading action on the pitch is much more effective against glove-side opposition, while a missed spot against a right-hander often leads to very hard contact.

Gonzalez_changeup_medium

This came from yesterday's preview, but it fits perfectly again today.

Speaking of changeups, Anibal Sanchez has a pretty good one. He has used this pitch effectively throughout his career, keeping lefties in check with a .696 OPS. It was the increased use of his change against right-handed hitters that made the difference in 2013, though. Sanchez threw the changeup a whopping 20% of the time against righties last season -- up from 11% for his career -- and held them to a .201/.250/.286 line in 333 plate appearances. The 22.5% whiff rate and 48% ground ball rate led to a .182 average for righties on the changeup, including 31 strikeouts, in 88 plate appearances.

Hitter to fear: Nelson Cruz (.250/.250/1.000 in 4 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: David Lough (.000/.200/.000 in 6 plate appearances)

Needless to say, Sanchez does not have much experience against the Orioles. He has not faced them in a Tigers uniform, and his only outing against them came way back in 2010. Cruz and Matt Wieters have homered off Sanchez. The only other player on the Orioles' roster with an RBI against Sanchez is Ubaldo Jimenez. Adam Jones is the only player with more than one hit against him.

Outlook

Gonzalez has had some tough luck against the Tigers early in his career. In his two outings, he has allowed eight runs in 11 2/3 innings, while the opposing starters -- Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, respectively -- combined to allow three runs on six hits in 16 innings with 18 strikeouts. Fortunately (for Gonzalez), a blown save of epic proportions from Jose Valverde prevented Gonzalez from taking the loss in 2013. This will be Gonzalez's first appearance at Comerica Park, however, and the cool April air may be more forgiving for him than the cozy confines his Orioles call home.

Prediction

Sanchez cruises and the Tigers start 3-0.

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