Game 78 Preview: Tigers at Astros

Bob Levey

Drew Smyly looks to finish off the Tigers' road trip on a positive note this afternoon in Houston. Scott Feldman will start for the Astros.

Detroit Tigers (44-33) at Houston Astros (35-47)

Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., Minute Maid Park

SB Nation blog: The Crawfish Boxes

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: LHP Drew Smyly (4-6, 3.19 ERA) vs. RHP Scott Feldman (3-5, 4.00 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Smyly 12 73.1 7.61 2.95 1.23 1.27 4.16 3.94 0.8
Feldman 13 72.0 5.38 2.50 1.00 1.31 4.60 4.33 0.2

The Astros' decision to sign Scott Feldman to a three year, $30 million contract last offseason was a bit puzzling considering the amount of pitching coming through their farm system. While Feldman adds a solid veteran presence, his actual numbers have been a bit lacking. He has a career 4.58 ERA and 4.47 FIP, and has just three seasons with 2.0 WAR or more. Suffice to say, 2014 has been a bit of a disappointment for Feldman and the Astros. His 4.00 ERA is slightly below the league average of 4.03 for starting pitchers, but his 4.60 FIP and 4.46 xFIP are less forgiving.

However, like the 2013 version of Rick Porcello, Feldman's numbers are skewed by one bad outing. He was roughed up by the Baltimore Orioles for nine earned runs in 5 1/3 innings in his first start in June, raising his ERA from 3.02 to 4.25 at the time. If you remove that start from the equation, Feldman's ERA is just 3.10. Feldman has also allowed 10 unearned runs this season thanks to a defense that ranks last in the AL according to Fangraphs' aggregate defense rating. Feldman has not done himself any favors, striking out just 5.38 batters per nine innings.

Drew Smyly has been on fire in the month of June. He has allowed just four earned runs in his last 25 innings, good for a 1.44 ERA. He has 17 strikeouts to just five walks in that span, good enough for a 3.38 FIP. He has gone at least six innings in each of his starts, something he had only done three times in April and May combined. His last start -- a six inning, one unearned run outing against the Texas Rangers -- may have been his best of the month. Smyly struck out five while walking one, throwing 102 pitches in six innings. This dropped his season-long ERA to 3.19, the lowest it has been since he last faced the Rangers in a relief outing in May.

Hitter to fear: Jose Altuve (.333/.333/.667 in 3 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Matt Dominguez (.000/.000/.000 in 3 plate appearances)

Smyly made a start against the Astros back in May, allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings. It was one of his rougher outings of the season, as he walked more batters than he struck out. Jose Altuve picked up an RBI double in that game, one of five hits Smyly allowed. L.J. Hoes had two singles in two at-bats, marking one of just two multi-hit games for him this season. Hoes' .792 OPS against lefties this season suggests that he will likely be in the lineup again today. Matt Dominguez and Jonathan Villar are both 0-for-3 in their careers against Smyly.

Outlook

The Astros have hit lefties pretty well as a team in 2014. Their .731 OPS ranks fifth in the American League while their .328 on-base percentage ranks fourth. This does not necessarily guarantee success against Smyly, however. The same Rangers squad that Smyly shut down in his last start ranks first in the AL in both categories. Meanwhile, Feldman has had some serious trouble against the Tigers in his career. The Tigers are hitting .353/.437/.640 against Feldman in 11 career outings. Feldman has not faced the Tigers since 2012, when he allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings as a member of the Rangers.

Prediction

Smyly finishes his June with a sub-2.00 ERA and the Tigers cap off an 8-1 road trip.

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