Game 76 Preview: Tigers at Astros

Bob Levey

Justin Verlander will look to build off his last start tonight against the Houston Astros. Right-hander Brad Peacock will start for Houston.

Detroit Tigers (43-32) at Houston Astros (34-46)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Minute Maid Park

SB Nation blog: The Crawfish Boxes

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (6-7, 4.82 ERA) vs. RHP Brad Peacock (2-4, 4.50 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Verlander 16 104.2 6.62 3.61 0.77 1.51 4.04 4.54 1.5
Peacock 10 66.0 8.18 5.18 0.95 1.53 4.39 4.50 0.4

Brad Peacock came into his first start against the Tigers this season with some dreadful numbers. In particular, his ERA was just shy of 6.00, though he only had three starts under his belt. He picked up a quality start, but issued four walks to just two strikeouts in 6 innings. Naturally, he followed that up with an 11 strikeout performance, though he took the loss after allowing four runs in six innings. His numbers as a starter are decent overall, and he has a 2.93 ERA in his last five starts. His walk rate during that stretch is still high, but not as bad as the 5.18 walks per nine innings he has on the season. Overall, he has a 3.99 ERA and 4.57 FIP as a starter in 2014.

One of the things working in the Tigers' favor against Peacock are his massive reverse platoon splits. Right-handed batters are hitting a cool .252/.339/.468 off him this season, while lefties have had virtually no power at .248/.352/.326. However, he season-long numbers suggest that this is probably luck-based. Only 4.4 percent of the fly balls hit by lefties have left the ballpark compared to 18.5 percent for right-handers. Lefties are drawing walks at a higher clip than righties. Last season, Peacock held righties to a .594 OPS while lefties were at .919 with nine home runs and a 13 percent walk rate.

Justin Verlander looked like the Verlander we are used to seeing in his last start, when he allowed a pair of runs in seven innings against the Cleveland Indians. While just about everything from the start was encouraging, I noticed a couple of specifics. First, this:

Verlander_curveball_6-21-14_medium

Also, Verlander picked up four whiffs on 51 fastballs thrown, a 7.8 percent clip. Verlander has been under 7 percent for the season, so it's possible that any changes he made between starts resulted in some extra life on his fastball (not to mention his curveball, according to the above GIF).

Hitter to fear: Alex Presley (.333/.429/.500 in seven plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Chris Carter (.000/.000/.000 in three plate appearances)

None of the Tigers pitchers has much experience with this Astros roster, given their youth and recent transition to the American League. Alex Presley's seven plate appearances against Verlander lead the team, as do his two hits in six at-bats. Carlos Corporan also has a hit off Verlander, who has yet to face the majority of position players on their roster. Chris Carter has struck out in all three career at-bats against Verlander. On the Tigers' side, Miguel Cabrera will look to homer off Peacock again after doing so in their first matchup this season.

Outlook

More of this, please.

Verlander_curveball_6-21-14_medium

Prediction

The Tigers' plane breaks down again, resulting in another lengthy travel delay. This eventually forces the team to rent a bus to take to Houston, but the only one available is already booked by a Dolly Parton fan club, so the two share buses (and seats). Justin Verlander gives up six home runs and 19 hits, but still strikes out Chris Carter three times. Brad Ausmus lets a member of the fan club deliver the lineup card after Joba Chamberlain goes missing. No one notices because both have beards. Somehow, Joe Nathan blows a save.

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