Pittsburgh Pirates (18-20) at Detroit Tigers (18-20)
Time/Place: Comerica Park, 7:05 p.m.
SB Nation Blog: Bucs Dugout
Pitching Matchup: Charlie Morton (2-3, 4.05 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (4-1, 2.47 ERA)
Morton is a 28 year old righthander who has spent the past four seasons in Pittsburgh after coming up in the Atlanta Braves' organization. He was traded to Pittsburgh along with former Tigers prospect Gorkys Hernandez in exchange for Muskegon native Nate McLouth... who is now back with the Pirates after playing horribly in Atlanta. He's playing even more horribly now, in case you were wondering.
Morton's ERA is mostly in line with his 4.32 FIP and 3.58 xFIP -- though his 20% HR/FB ratio explains the dip in xFIP -- and has been very average in most of his starts this season. As has been par for the course this season, his last start was one of his better outings. He gave up two runs (one earned) on 7 hits in 7 innings against the Houston Astros last time out. This will be his first appearance against the Tigers. Prince Fielder has a .182 average and a .400 OBP against Morton in 15 plate appearances, though one of his two hits off Morton was a home run.
Little did we know, Verlander might be going international in his quest for Taco Bell every time he starts at home. There's one on Wayne State's campus, but other than that, all of the closest ones are in Windsor, a mere 5.2 kilometers away. As for the game itself, Verlander has a 15-2 record in interleague play throughout his career. I shudder to think of the types of numbers he would put up if he pitched for a National League team.
Small dude, big numbers
If someone asked you to name a current player on the Pirate roster, your first thought (well, before reading the paragraphs above) would be Andrew McCutchen, and for good reason. He's having a whale of a season so far, hitting .349/.407/.535 with 3 home runs and 14 RBIs. There's a catch though: his BABIP is .400, and his walk rate is down to 8.5% from 13.1% in 2011. Still, McCutchen is one of the few outfielders in the game that I would take over Austin Jackson, and he's very fun to watch when he isn't tormenting our pitching staff.
Other than McCutchen, Pittsburgh's offense is pretty barren. Pedro Alvarez has 7 home runs and a .459 slugging percentage, but he's only hitting .216 and has been in a slump recently. First baseman Garrett Jones and catcher Rod Barajas are the only other players on the Pirates roster with more than 2 home runs. Normally, I'd say that this is a great opportunity for the Tigers to sweep a series, but the last two games with Minnesota left me a little jaded. Still, the Tigers have been very good in interleague play under Jim Leyland (last season nonwithstanding), and with Verlander on the mound tonight, it's hard to be pessimistic.
8 strong innings from Verlander tonight.
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