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Game 74 Preview: Tigers at Rangers

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SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 20:  Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers pitches during the second inning of an interleague baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on June 20, 2012 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 20: Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers pitches during the second inning of an interleague baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on June 20, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Detroit Tigers (36-37) at Texas Rangers (45-29)

Time/Place: 8:00 p.m., Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

SB Nation Blog: Lone Star Ball

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

Pitching Matchup: Drew Smyly (2-2, 3.96 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (9-4, 3.45 ERA)

Darvish struggled early in his previous start against the San Diego Padres, giving up three hits and two walks in his first two innings. He allowed two runs in the process, but would have given up a few more had it not been for two line drives straight at Ranger defenders. After that, Darvish settled down and only allowed three more baserunners in the next 6 innings to earn his 9th win of the season.

In general, Darvish has been struggling with his command. He has walked five batters on three separate occasions this season, including his last start against the Tigers in April. Darvish has started to pitch exclusively from the stretch, resulting in two things: (1) his timing has changed, which may throw off the Tigers compared to when they saw him before (when he was pitching from a windup) and (2) he is allowing plenty of stolen bases, including one to Padres pitcher Anthony Bass in his last start. If Quintin Berry gets on base today, he is all-but-guaranteed to be on second in just a few pitches.

Smyly is making his first start since he was sent to the disabled list with that blister on his left hand earlier in June. I'm surprised that he is returning so soon -- especially with Jacob Turner already up and ready to go -- because his DL stint seemed like a sneaky way for the Tigers organization to limit his innings this season. To be successful, he needs to keep the ball in the yard... which is easier said than done at this time of year.

Outlook

While Darvish's delivery might be different, his pitches aren't. The Tigers, like most of the American League, weren't able to solve him the first time around, but teams have had plenty of success with Darvish in their second matchup. Three of his four losses are against teams that he had beaten previously this season. Smyly has also had trouble when facing teams a second time, though not to the extent that Darvish has. Whichever starter can make the necessary adjustments to keep hitters off balance again will come out on top in this one.

Prediction

Berry steals three bases tonight.

Gameday Reading:

45-29 - Pun On Starter's Name, Indication Of Outcome - Lone Star Ball
Short and sweet, just like Justin Grimm's start last night.

Tigers Knock Out Rookie Starter in 2nd Inning, Josh Hamilton Throws Bats, It Was Also Really Hot - Walkoff Woodward, Cameron Scott
"The Tigers hadn’t knocked out a starter as early as they did today since they mashed Kevin Millwood for 5 ER in 1 inning of work on July 5th, 2010."

Texas Rangers coach Keith Comstock ask Yu Darvish to watch out & be very careful of US women - Lone Star Ball
This. Is. Phenomenal.

Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton trying to quit dipping, end slump - ESPN Dallas, Richard Durrett
I'd be fine with the slump continuing for a few more games, but it's nice to see Hamilton quit another unhealthy habit.