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Game 35 Preview: Indians at Tigers

Zach McAllister and Rick Porcello have both pitched well in recent starts, but can either of them slow down the opposing offense? Today's rubber match could easily be an offensive shootout.


Cleveland Indians (19-15) at Detroit Tigers (20-14)

Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Zach McAllister (3-3, 2.63 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (1-2, 7.52 ERA)

McAllister's 3-3 record belies his excellent start to the season, even if the results aren't completely sustainable. He has been the victim of poor run support in his three losses. In those contests, the Indians have scored a total of five runs. In his last start, he out-dueled Tommy Milone, tossing 7 2/3 shutout innings in a 1-0 Indians victory. The most telling stat? He has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start. That said, he's due to regress. His FIP is currently over a run higher than his ERA at 3.84. His drop in walk rate from last season isn't a surprise given his low walk totals in the minor leagues, but he probably won't strike out 7.9 batters per nine innings in the majors after fanning only 6.8 batters per nine in the last three years at Triple-A.

This especially becomes true as more big leaguers become familiar with his stuff, which isn't going to blow anyone away. He relies primarily on a four-seam fastball that sits at 92-93 miles per hour. According to PitchFX, he throws a cutter on occasion, but the drop in its use this season makes me wonder if that is just him tweaking his slider (if you think about it, a cutter is just a harder slider with less break). He also throws a changeup to lefties when he gets ahead in the count.

One other sign of regression? Our favorite made-up stat: BABIP. McAllister's BABIP is currently sitting at .250. Given that he was at .304 last year and north of .300 in each season he spent in Triple-A, I'd expect this to climb as the season goes on. He isn't getting an inordinate number of ground balls compared to seasons past either, so there doesn't seem to be any wholesale changes in his approach this year.

Need more proof that baseball is unpredictable? The Houston Astros scored three runs on two home runs off of Yu Darvish last night, giving him a nearly identical line to Porcello's start on May 2nd. Of course, this has nothing to do with today's game, especially given that the Indians have a much better offense than Houston does. As I explained earlier this week, Cleveland is likely going to throw a plethora of left-handed hitters at Porcello, who is inexplicably holding them to a .288/.315/.442 clip this year. Given his prior struggles with lefties, it would be spectacular if he could maintain this .757 OPS against them over the course of the entire season. In his last two starts, Porcello has struck out 12 batters. The catch? Each team leads their respective lead in strikeouts. The Indians won't whiff as often today, which could spell trouble for Porcello if he doesn't locate his pitches well -- and as we saw against the Angels, that might not be enough either.


I'm already on record stating that I don't like how Porcello matches up with the Indians' lineup. He has pitched fairly well against them in the past -- relative to his career numbers, that is -- but a lot of that success has come in Cleveland, a statistical oddity given how much the Tigers have struggled in Ohio in recent seasons. Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Mark Reynolds have all hit over .300 against Porcello in the past in limited at-bats, with Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis not far behind. Given that I just named two-thirds of their lineup, you can already guess what my prediction will be. The Tigers offense will probably have to win today's game.


The Indians take the series in another high-scoring affair.