Game 84 Preview: Rays at Tigers

Brian Blanco

Anibal Sanchez and Chris Archer square off in a late afternoon game at Comerica Park.

Tampa Bay Rays (39-50) at Detroit Tigers (48-35)

Time/Place: 4:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: DRaysBay

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Chris Archer (4-5, 3.24 ERA) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (5-2, 2.63 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Archer 17 100.0 8.10 3.42 0.27 1.30 2.99 3.78 2.3
Sanchez 14 82.0 7.24 2.30 0.22 0.98 2.69 3.73 2.3

Chris Archer was overshadowed by teammate Wil Myers in last season's AL Rookie of the Year vote, but the 25 year old right-hander has had the stronger sophomore season of the two. Archer has been particularly dominant lately, allowing a 2.11 ERA in his last 10 starts. He is coming off a strong outing against the New York Yankees, allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings. His walk rate is not very impressive on the surface, but Drew Laing of DRaysBay gave us some insight in our Q&A with him.

A nasty, nasty slider and a 94-96 MPH fastball. In fact, out of all starting pitchers last season, Archer threw the fastest fastball on average. As for control, with any young pitcher that has incredible stuff, control will be an issue. The silver lining for Archer has been the improvement he's shown over the past months. He decreased his walks by nine from May to June (21 to 21).

To build on that, Archer has not allowed more than three walks in an outing since May 23rd. He had 31 strikeouts to 12 walks in six June starts, which saw his ERA drop from 4.00 to 3.24. His slider has been as nasty as Drew says, resulting in a 17.8 percent whiff rate this season. He uses it over 30 percent of the time, the highest rate among qualified American League starters. However, Archer's changeup has been his best pitch according to PitchFX pitch values despite the fact that he rarely throws it. He only uses it five percent of the time against left-handed hitters, but is holding them to a .562 OPS in 2014.

Anibal Sanchez got some redemption against the Oakland A's in his last start. After outpitching Scott Kazmir in a heartbreaking loss to Oakland in May, Sanchez was bailed out by Rajai Davis' walkoff grand slam. The start itself was a nice rebound from Sanchez's previous outing, where he allowed four runs for the first time in 2014. It was also his only outing of less than six innings in June. Sanchez only has seven strikeouts in his last three starts, but only allowed six walks in the entire month of June. He has hit three batters in his last two starts, however.

Hitter to fear: Matt Joyce (.333/.333/1.000 in 12 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Ben Zobrist (.231/.333/.231 in 15 plate appearances)

Don't be surprised if Rod Allen mentions Matt Joyce's "contact-to-damage ratio" at some point tonight. Joyce only has four hits in 12 at-bats against Sanchez, but all four have gone for extra bases. This includes two of Joyce's 12 career triples, both coming back in 2011. James Loney has the highest batting average of any Rays hitter, at 4-for-10. Desmond Jennings is at the opposite end of the spectrum at 0-for-6, but has drawn a pair of walks. Ben Zobrist is 3-for-13 against Sanchez with no extra base hits.

Outlook

While Archer's walk rate has been a problem, he has limited the damage by only allowing a .247 batting average and a .322 slugging average. This figure goes up slightly with men on base, but a .645 OPS with runners in scoring position has kept opposing teams off the scoreboard. The Tigers' righty-heavy lineup may have more success this afternoon, however. Righties are hitting .298/.354/.398 off Archer this season, a surprising figure given their .455 OPS against him last year.

Prediction

Sanchez makes an early lead stand up and the Tigers regain a five game lead in the Central.

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