Jeff Francis (3-7, 5.65) vs. Justin Verlander (4-9, 4.49)
At the risk of invoking any sort of disfavor from the baseball gods (particularly the one named Jinx), I won't explicitly mention what the Detroit Tigers will accomplish with a win tonight. But you know what I'm talking about. It's something that hasn't been in reach since the first week of April, something that we took for granted before this season began.
Jeff Francis was knocked around by the Royals in his last start, giving up seven runs, seven hits, and three walks in just 4 1/3 innings. The first inning has been particularly problematic, with opposing lineups batting .413/.471/.600 against him. Francis has given up more hits, runs, and walks during the first than in any other inning, so the Tigers should have a chance to jump on him early tonight.
Meanwhile, Justin Verlander looks to be throwing as well as he has all season. Against the Padres, Verlander notched 10 strikeouts while allowing only two runs in 5 1/3 innings. He also walked five batters, so his control wasn't great. But the velocity was most certainly there.
Marcus Thames is back in the lineup after a two-game layoff. His absence raised enough questions for Jim Leyland to address before last night's game. Thames wasn't being benched, Leyland said, but he had "been out of character a little bit." Apparently, that home run streak made The Hammer a bit impulsive at the plate and perhaps threw his swing out of whack. Clete Thomas filled in quite well, but he obviously can't bring the thunder of The Mighty Thames.
▪▪ Ramon Santiago says his shoulder is feeling better, and hopes to begin a minor league rehab assignment next week.
▪▪ Placido Polanco was voted the most underrated player in baseball in a Sports Illustrated poll of major league players. This means he's no longer underrated, right?