Detroit Tigers (84-73) at Minnesota Twins (66-91)
Time/Place: 4:00 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation Blog: Twinkie Town
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (16-8, 2.72 ERA) vs. RHP P.J. Walters (2-4, 5.88 ERA)
The last time the Tigers faced Walters, I said that there was no excuse for not lighting up a starter with an ERA above 6.00. They didn't, and Walters' solid outing knocked his ERA down by over half a run. He is 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three starts against the Tigers this season. Against everyone else? 1-4 with a 7.28 ERA.
One possible explanation for Walters' success is the number of strikes he is throwing -- or, to be more accurate, not throwing -- against the Tigers. 57% of his pitches to Tigers hitters this season have been strikes. Against everyone else, Walters is throwing 62% strikes. Whether this is by design or simply a product of a small sample size is anyone's guess, but the stats have backed up its effectiveness so far. The Tigers are fifth in the AL in O-swing %, the percentage of pitches swung at outside the strike zone. For a guy giving up line drives* at a 26.2% rate, getting hitters to swing at bad pitches is essential, and Walters is doing that against the Tigers this season.
*Standard caveats of line drive rates apply here
Verlander has only started one game against the Twins this season, but it was a doozy. JV made our country's founding fathers proud with a complete game victory on the 4th of July, holding the Twins to just one run on four hits in a 5-1 Tigers win. JV has done more of the same to his last three opponents, allowing just two combined runs in his last three starts. In three career starts at Target Field, he is 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA. More importantly, Verlander's strikeout-to-walks ratio has increased from 2.54 at the Metrodome to 4.75 at Target Field.
WHAT IS THIS DEMONRY
I had a sentence in this preview about being completely S.O.L. about seeing the Tigers play today if you live out of state, but the fates have smiled upon those of us on the East coast (and the Pacific northwest, for some reason). Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled preview.
Once again, Verlander will be called upon to shoulder the load after a Tigers loss. I think we've all lost count of his ridiculous record in this situation over the past few seasons, but rest assured: it's still gaudy. He will need to be at his best today. Other things that go without saying (but I'm going to say them anyway): the Tigers offense needs to put up runs on Walters. Expect both of these things to happen this afternoon.
Verlander goes eight strong innings and coasts to an easy Tigers victory.