Game 39 Preview: Tigers at Red Sox

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Anibal Sanchez returns from the disabled list tonight to face Jake Peavy and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Detroit Tigers (26-12) at Boston Red Sox (20-22)

Time/Place: 8:05 p.m., Fenway Park

SB Nation blog: Over the Monster

Media: ESPN, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (0-2, 3.13 ERA) vs. RHP Jake Peavy (1-1, 3.94 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Sanchez 5 23.0 9.39 4.30 0.00 1.13 2.45 3.84 0.7
Peavy 8 48.0 7.69 5.06 1.50 1.46 5.25 4.70 0.1

Jake Peavy has been uncharacteristically wild this season, walking a whopping 5.06 batters per nine innings in eight starts. He has walked at least four batters in five outings, but has otherwise been able to pitch around all the baserunners he is allowing. The lack of command is particularly curious for Peavy, who has just one season with more than 70 base on balls -- and it came way back in 2003. Sometimes, an elevated walk rate will coincide with a higher strikeout rate, but this is not the case for Peavy so far in 2014. His 1.52 strikeout-to-walk ratio is less than half of his career mark (3.13) and by far the worst of his 13 big league seasons.

Other than that, Peavy hasn't been too bad this season. He has logged six innings or more in six of his eight starts, and has held the opposition to two runs or fewer in five outings. He got rocked in his last start by the Minnesota Twins, allowing a season-high six runs in 4 1/3 innings. The outing raised his ERA by nearly a full run, bringing him closer to his advanced metrics -- all of which don't like his high walk rate.

So far in 2014, Anibal Sanchez has not looked like the pitcher that dominated hitters from August 2012 and throughout the 2013 season. The blister issue that shelved him on the disabled list for three weeks may have played a role, but Sanchez has only worked into the sixth inning one time this year. His walk rate harkens back to the 2009 season, the last time he missed significant time due to injury. Fortunately, Sanchez has maintained his batter-per-inning strikeout rate, resulting in a 2.43 FIP in his first five starts. We should see his peripherals stabilize in a few more starts, because it's difficult to draw conclusion from the haywire statistics he has amassed thus far.

Hitter to fear: David Ortiz (.444/.444/1.222 in 9 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Shane Victorino (.204/.264/.286 in 53 plate appearances)

Sanchez saw plenty of Shane Victorino when the two were playing in the NL East, with the Tigers' right-hander getting the better of the Flyin' Hawaiian. Victorino is 10-for-49 with a pair of extra base hits against him, including an 0-for-6 performance in last year's postseason. Nearly all of the Red Sox right-handers have struggled against Sanchez, save for Mike Napoli, who has doubled and homered in five at-bats. He and David Ortiz are both slugging over 1.000 in limited plate appearances.

Outlook

The Tigers' rotation has been scary good -- again -- in 2014. They lead baseball in ERA, FIP, and WAR, and are again on pace to have three starters with 5.0 WAR or more. They stepped up big time while Sanchez was on the disabled list as well. Since April 25th, only one Tigers starter has allowed more than three runs in an outing -- and that Justin Verlander guy is pretty good. This does not change the offense's struggles against right-handed pitching, though last night's romp against John Lackey did. The Tigers are now hitting .274/.326/.415 against righties, good enough for fifth in the American League with a .741 OPS. If they can get on base against Peavy -- not a sure thing, given that they have the third-lowest walk rate in the AL -- then we could be talking about a fourth consecutive road sweep.

Prediction

The Tigers win, sweep, and move 15 games over .500, which they did not do until July 30th last season.

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