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Game 85 Preview: Royals at Tigers

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 1: Bruce Chen #52 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning on July 1, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 1: Bruce Chen #52 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning on July 1, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Kansas City Royals (37-45) at Detroit Tigers (42-42)

Time/Place: 4:00 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation Blog: Royals Review

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

Pitching Matchup: Bruce Chen (7-7, 4.83 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (1-6, 4.61 ERA)

When we last saw Chen, he had a 2.00 ERA and a K:BB ratio of 7:1. The problem? This was three starts into the season. Since then, Chen has put up good numbers for a typical 4/5 starter. Unfortunately for the Royals, Chen is expected to be one of the top arms in their rotation. This represents multiple flaws that don't really have a bearing on today's game, so we'll stick to what we know about Chen: he is sporting a career low walk rate and a career high K:BB ratio, but his home/away splits are pretty scary (for the Royals, that is). The Tigers will need to get to him early, as opponents are only hitting .211 and .239 through the second and third trips, respectively, through the batting order.

I'm not 100% sure I believe Rod Allen's assertion that Fister's problems are all stemming from a mechanical issue, but this may be partially due to the fact that I missed a few days' worth of baseball because of the gigantic power outage on the East coast. Fister has a higher strikeout rate and higher ground ball rate this season than at any point in his career, but it has been more than cancelled out by a ridiculous 17.9% HR/FB ratio. Fister's xFIP, controlled for home run rate, is 3.19. Oh, and the .339 BABIP doesn't help either.

Hot and Cold

Mike Moustakas has been hitting everything that moves over the past week, humming along at a .333 clip with an OPS approaching 1.000. Catcher Salvador Perez is hitting .425/.425/.725 in 11 games since returning from a knee injury he suffered in Spring Training. Meanwhile, Billy Butler is hitting just .182 over the past week while Eric Hosmer is hitting nothing but singles lately: he only has 3 doubles and 2 home runs in the past month.

Outlook

Statistically, the Tigers are as .500 as .500 teams can be. They are 20-20 at home, 22-22 on the road, and have scored 372 runs to their 373 allowed. They are 5-2 in July though, and we haven't even addressed the giant elephant in the room -- a.k.a. getting over .500 for the first time since May 8th -- yet. Delmon Young, Miguel Cabrera, and Ryan Raburn all have a career OPS above .900 against Chen. At least one of those guys hits a home run today, preferably in the first inning with multiple guys on base.

Prediction

Order is restored this evening as the Tigers climb above .500.

Gameday Reading:

Sanchez Pitches Too Well to Lose His Job, Not Good Enough to Win in Royals 4-2 Loss - Royals Review
"This is the Kyle Davies dance all over again. How long did we play out that string? Jonathan Sanchez gave us enough glimpses of decent pitching that the Royals will likely give him more starts in the future."

Tigers Discover .500 Record, Ask for Key to City, Request Denied - Walkoff Woodward, Josh Worn
"This secret that Drew Smyly possessed is a nasty looking breaking ball that’s even uglier than the blister he went on the DL for. At least, it’s ugly to the opposing hitters. It’s really nice looking if you’re rooting for that sort of thing."

Perez proving he’s ready to resume full workload - Kansas City Star, Bob Dutton
"More important, perhaps, Perez has shown an ability to take some hits, too, including a foul tip Wednesday off his right knee – the good knee – that sent him spinning to the ground in pain and brought Yost out of the dugout for a check."