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Game 70 Preview: Tigers at Pirates

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June 16, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) delivers in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE
June 16, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) delivers in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

Detroit Tigers (34-35) at Pittsburgh Pirates (36-32)

Time/Place: 7:00 p.m., PNC Park

SB Nation Blog: Bucs Dugout

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: Doug Fister (1-3, 2.68 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (7-2, 3.52 ERA)

Burnett has been lights out since his start against the Tigers in May. Including that start (a Pirates win, for those with short memories), Burnett is 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA in his last six starts. He has struggled with his command at times, allowing 17 walks in 37 1/3 innings. Overall, Burnett has 8 quality starts on the season.

In his last outing, Fister was excellent. To Tigerdog's dismay, Fister threw just 82 pitches in 6 shutout innings and was the stopper that the Tigers have sorely missed for most of the season. More importantly, Fister felt no ill effects for the next couple days after his start. If he can replicate his success again today -- especially the strikeout totals, which were a nice surprise in his first start back -- the Tigers will be in great shape.

What's new?

Since the Tigers took two of three from the Pirates in mid-May, Pittsburgh has a 17-10 record. This includes a 7-2 record against the AL Central (thanks guys!). Most of their other games were against NL Central competition where they are two games behind the recently-swept Cincinnati Reds (thanks guys...). While they may collapse in July or August, these are not quite the Pirates of old just yet.

Don't pitch to Andrew McCutchen

Because we've already seen the consequences first-hand.

Outlook

Burnett is pitching like a man on fire this season, especially at home. His home ERA is a minuscule 1.27 at home and opponents are hitting just .185. Clearly, getting out of Yankee Stadium was the elixir that he needed. With how much the Tigers struggled against him last time -- along with seeing how "well" they adjusted to Jake Peavy when facing him the second time (which is to say not at all) -- this could be a long night for the Tigers. Something strange always seems to happen during the first game of any series at PNC Park though, so I'm not giving up on this one quite yet.

Prediction

"The dead walk the earth due to experimental virus outbreak in 7th inning" [h/t MakeItTrizzle]

Gameday Reading:

Andrew McCutchen's small adjustments have made a big difference in the box - ESPN Insider, Buster Olney
Buster thinks that McCutchen could be a dark horse MVP candidate if he maintains his production. Subscription required for this one. [h/t Bucs Dugout]

Austin Jackson solves Tigers' leadoff problem - The Detroit News, David Goricki
Headlines are fun. The Tigers haven't had a leadoff "problem" all season long.