Detroit Tigers (85-73) at Minnesota Twins (66-92)
Time/Place: 2:00 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation Blog: Twinkie Town
Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (9-13, 3.95 ERA) vs. RHP Liam Hendriks (1-8, 6.09 ERA)
Hendriks didn't pitch in the series between these two teams last weekend. Instead, he got shelled by the New York Yankees to the tune of six earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. Games like this have been the norm for Hendriks this season, as his ERA hasn't been below 5.88 since his second start of the season on April 20th. In this latest stint in the Twins' rotation, he is 1-3 with a 5.18 ERA in seven starts. He relies heavily on fly ball outs in the spacious outfield at Target Field, but also gives up quite a few homers. 12 of his 17 home runs allowed this season have come at home and he is allowing almost two dingers per nine innings.
Meanwhile, Sanchez will be looking to replicate his last start, the brilliant 3-hit shutout of the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday. How good was Sanchez? According to Bill James' Game Score, a statistic that measures the strength of a pitcher in any given outing, Sanchez scored a 90. This was the second highest number of any Tigers starter this season. The highest number, a 95, belongs to Justin Verlander's one-hit shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 18th.
This is your brain on walks
Alex Avila is hitting .235 in September. Those of you who thought that he had broken out of a slump in that regard are wrong. However, Avila's on-base percentage in September is a stellar .371 thanks to nine walks and two HBP in 63 plate appearances. In fact, Avila's OBP is a robust .371 since the All-Star Break. His power has started to come back at the right time as well. He has a .431 slugging percentage in September including two home runs and 10 RBI.
Yesterday was huge. According to Cool Standings, the Tigers' had a 71.9% chance of winning the division prior to yesterday's games. This morning? That number has skyrocketed to 90.2%. Trout Jefferson already outlined every possible scenario for the last four games in yesterday's game recap and found pretty much the same thing. That being said, I would really appreciate an easy blowout win today over a middling back-of-the-rotation starter.
The offense is hard to come by early, but a big homer or two late in the game seal the series for the Tigers.