Detroit Tigers (9-5) at Seattle Mariners (6-10)
Time/Place: 3:40 p.m., Safeco Field
SB Nation blog: Lookout Landing
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (2-1, 1.96 ERA) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (2-0, 2.18 ERA)
Iwakuma is no Felix Hernandez, but he is a very good pitcher who has gotten off to a hot start in 2013. He has allowed five runs and only 9 hits in 20 2/3 innings so far. His command has been impeccable as well, striking out 16 batters while walking only one. His 0.484 WHIP currently leads the majors. While he has been victimized by the long ball so far -- he has already allowed four home runs -- the lack of baserunners has limited the damage.
Iwakuma uses his fastball to get ahead of hitters, throwing it nearly 50% of the time on the first pitch of an at-bat. It rests in the low 90s, with his slider in the low 80s and his curveball in the mid-70s range. However, the real danger here is his splitter.
Yeah, it's nasty. Iwakuma will throw that beast to both right-handed and left-handed hitters when he gets ahead, but rarely touches it when behind in the count. Considering opponents have hit just .176 with an ISO of .051 off that pitch in his career, I'd advise the Tigers to stay out of two strike counts. Expect another strikeout-filled afternoon.
For those concerned about Verlander's fastball velocity: don't be. He started to ramp up the heat in his last start against the Oakland A's, averaging 94 miles per hour with his fastball with a top speed of 96.9 miles per hour. The A's made him work, forcing him to throw 111 pitches in just six innings. However, they have done that to just about everyone so far this season; they lead the major leagues with 70 base on balls, 11 more than any other team. Expect Verlander to be more efficient today, especially knowing that he needs to pitch deep into the game to give the bullpen a well-deserved day off.
Closest Taco Bell to Safeco Field: 0.7 miles
Last night's game was a pitcher's duel for the ages, with both starters going strikeout-for-strikeout for eight solid innings. Today's matchup isn't quite as promising, but I would expect offense to be at a premium once again. If Iwakuma's blister problems don't limit his pitch count, both starters should work deep into the game. If the Tigers' offense can cure their Safeco strikeout issues, I like their chances for another W.
I don't bet against Verlander. Tigers sweep.