Houston Astros (10-30) at Detroit Tigers (22-15)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Crawfish Boxes
Pitching Matchup: LHP Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 4.43 ERA) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (5-0, 3.61 ERA)
Keuchel made his first start of the season five days ago against the Texas Rangers, allowing two runs on five hits in six innings of work. One of the runs was this bomb off the bat of Nelson Cruz, something that the Tigers would like to avoid over the weekend. Keuchel walked the other run in with the bases loaded, outlining an issue we have covered all week with the Astros pitching staff. Keuchel gets into serious trouble when he allows walks; in his four outings where he has issued at least one free pass, he has allowed 13 runs (nine earned) in 17 innings. In his walk-free outings? Two runs in 7 1/3 innings. Like Lucas Harrell, Keuchel has a nice ground ball rate, but he has also gotten into trouble by allowing four home runs in just 22 1/3 innings this year.
When Keuchel faced the Tigers in the 14-inning marathon on May 2nd, he attacked primarily with a fastball-changeup combination. He primarily relies on his two-seamer, which averages 90 miles per hour, but will also use a four-seam fastball at the same velocity. He throws a slower changeup than most pitchers -- even soft-tossing lefties will throw their changeups from 83-85 miles per hour -- averaging about 78 miles per hour. He also throws a slider and curveball that he didn't feature much in his appearance against the Tigers. Both are primarily featured against left-handed hitters, with the slider serving as his out pitch with two strikes.
Scherzer was the lucky recipient of 17 runs when he started against the Astros earlier this month, his fourth win of the season. Sadly, these 17 runs equal the entire output of the Tigers offense during all six of Anibal Sanchez's starts last September. Getting back to Scherzer, he didn't take the run support for granted and pitched eight stellar innings, racking up eight strikeouts while allowing just a solo home run to Carlos Corporan. He matched that with another eight innings against the Cleveland Indians in his last start, a 10-4 Tigers win. In his last three starts, Scherzer has struck out 25 batters while walking two. Hopefully he can continue to pad those stats today.
This should be the start where I tell you the last time the Tigers swept a season series against a team, but it's late and Clayton Kershaw is way more entertaining than clicking through a zillion pages at Baseball Reference. They went 6-1 against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011, which might be the closest they have gotten to sweeping a season series (of more than three games) against a team in the Leyland era. The last time the Tigers won seven straight games against a team including two series sweeps? Last season against the Chicago White Sox, when they swept two separate three-game series after a 10-8 win in Chicago last May. For reference, the 2003 Tigers won at least one game against any team they played more than three times.
Scherzer dominated the Astros in his last start. The combination of his overpowering stuff and the Astros' poor contact rates -- they have the highest swinging strike percentage in the major leagues -- is a perfect recipe for plenty of strikeouts. On the other side, Keuchel is exactly the type of pitcher that the Tigers have struggled with in the past. His two seamer has resulted in a ground ball rate of 58.4% this year and the slower velocity of his pitches (especially that changeup) may keep the Tigers off-balance enough to keep them in the game. However, I think Keuchel's command eventually fails him and we see more fireworks in the middle innings.
Why not? The Tigers make it seven straight against the Astros.