Game 73 Preview: Tigers at Rangers

Rick Yeatts

Drew Smyly and the Tigers look to make it five wins in a row tonight against Colby Lewis and the Texas Rangers.

Detroit Tigers (40-32) at Texas Rangers (35-40)

Time/Place: 8:05 p.m., Globe Life Park in Arlington

SB Nation blog: Lone Star Ball

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: LHP Drew Smyly (3-6, 3.48 ERA) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (5-4, 5.97 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Smyly 11 67.1 7.62 3.07 1.34 1.29 4.35 3.97 0.6
Lewis 12 63.1 7.25 3.69 0.99 1.86 4.33 4.57 0.8

Colby Lewis capped off the Rangers' series victory at Comerica Park last month with a win, but his offense did the heavy lifting. While Lewis only allowed two runs, he also walked five batters and threw 108 pitches in just 5innings. Had the Tigers capitalized on a couple more scoring chances — and, you know, not allowed 12 runs — we may have seen a different outcome. Since then, Lewis has not been very good. He has given up five earned runs in three of his four starts since the Rangers skipped town and only pitched into the sixth inning twice. In fact, Lewis has yet to record a quality start this season, largely because he has only gotten through the sixth inning once in 12 starts.

Lewis' inefficiency has been a problem, but it has not caught up with the Rangers quite yet. This is largely because he leads the American League in run support. The Rangers offense is scoring 5.6 runs per game when he takes the mound, including five games of six runs or more. Lewis himself has not been all that special either. His 1.96 strikeout-to-walk ratio is below his career average and well short of the 3.39 he posted in the Rangers' rotation from 2010 to 2012. His home run rate is a bit lower than usual, though a 24.8 percent line drive rate explains the high ERA-FIP ratio.

Drew Smyly's 4.35 FIP is nearly identical to Lewis' 4.33 — a surprise, given the chasm between their ERAs — but this is about where the similarities end between these two pitchers. Smyly has the higher strikeout-to-walk ratio, but has been victimized by the home run ball. Opposing batters are hitting just .248 against him, resulting in a much lower WHIP. He has been much more efficient, pitching at least six innings in six of his 11 starts. This includes each of his last three starts, where Smyly has a 1.89 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 19 innings. Naturally, he has a 12 record to show for it.

Hitter to fear: Elvis Andrus (.222/.300/.444 in 10 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Shin-Soo Choo (.167/.167/.167 in six plate appearances)

Smyly has not had many chances to face the Rangers — he threw a scoreless inning in relief against them earlier this year — but his limited opportunities have been relatively successful. He held them to just one run in six innings in his third career start, but was lit up later in 2012 for six runs on eight hits in 4 innings. However, the only Rangers player to homer off Smyly in that start was Ian Kinsler. Elvis Andrus has had the most success among the current Texas roster, with a pair of doubles in nine at-bats. Leonys Martin and Alex Rios are hitless in four at-bats, but Shin-Soo Choo has struck out three times in his six career plate appearances against the Tigers' lefty.

Outlook

It seems that the Rangers' injury problems have finally caught up to them. They are only scoring 4.08 runs since leaving Comerica Park in late May, and their 4.68 ERA in the last month is the second-highest in the American League (I won't tell you who's number one). They are just 1015 in their last 25 games and have only won one series in June. Now 11½ games out of first, they are dangerously close to being passed by the Houston Astros in the AL West standings. The Tigers should be able to tack on a few runs against Lewis tonight — his home ERA is an unsightly 7.42 this season — but that may not matter if the Rangers offense keeps up their inexplicable pace with Lewis on the hill.

Prediction

Smyly allows 12 home runs, eight from Adrian Beltre. Ron Washington still calls for six sacrifice bunts.

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