Game 26 Preview: Tigers at Royals

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

It's JV day: In a battle of JV's, the Tigers look to bring Jason Vargas back down to earth.

Detroit Tigers (16-9) at Kansas City Royals (14-15)

Time/Place: 2:10 p.m. ET, Kauffman Stadium

SB Nation blog: Royals Review

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (3-1, 2.48 ERA) vs. LHP Jason Vargas (2-0, 2.40 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Verlander 6 40.0 6.98 3.38 0.23 1.35 3.03 4.35 1.1
Vargas 6 41.1 5.01 1.74 0.87 1.09 3.93 4.41 0.6

It can't last, can it? Jason Vargas has looked every bit of the number two starter his four year contract suggested he was, including a sterling performance against the Tigers back on April 2nd.  The Royals had the lowest ERA in the league last year, and the now departed Ervin Santana was a big part of that. Vargas is his replacement, and at least so far, he is getting the job done.

Vargas disappointed the Angels with a 4.02 ERA, 1.39 WHIP last year in 150 innings. His K rate is actually down this year, but so is his BB rate, HR rate, and most crtically- he has a .258 BABIP. That has kept his ERA much lower than his FIP- which is not coincidentally close to last year's numbers.  Vargas is a fly ball pitcher, and that works well with a good defensive outfield.

The Tigers have hit left handers at a rate of .289 .352    .453    .805  with a heavy right handed lineup.   The Tigers lead the league with a .278 batting average overall, and .295 over the past two weeks.

Verlander has a career 2.77 ERA with a 9- 4 record in 17 starts at  Kaufman stadium.

Hitter to fear: Salvador Perez (.458/.423/.833 in 26 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Mike Moustakas (.167/.189/.250 in 37 plate appearances)

Perez shot out of the gate looking like an All Star catcher this season, but has cooled off, hitting just ..186    .222    .372 over the past two weeks.  Moustakas has just been consistently bad. The hottest Royal has been former Tiger Omar Infante, who has hit .320 .375 .540 over the past 14 days.

Brad Ausmus could field a lineup with six right handers who are hitting over .300 the past two weeks. That includes Bryan Holaday, but that would mean resting their hottest hitter, who is of course Alex Avila, for the second day in a row. Austin Jackson has hit .389 against left handers, and Ian Kinsler .400.  Andrew Romine is supposed to be more comfortable from the left side of the plate, but is batting .375 against lefties in the early going.  He did the same last season with splits.

Outlook

This contest has all the makings of a pitchers' duel, which means it will probably be a slug fest.  We'll have to see how many right handers Ausmus plucks from the bench and into the starting lineup, but those guys aren't the ones that the Tigers will be looking to for production.

The Tigers enter this match up with the best record in the American League, on pace to win over 100 games.  The Royals find themselves four games behind the Tigers, and one game under .500.  The two teams will next meet in a four game series at Comerica park starting June 16, the fourth game being a make up for the postponed game on April 3.

Prediction

Tiger bats remain hot, take the series, and a five game lead.

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