Detroit Tigers (22-17) at Texas Rangers (27-14)
Time/Place: 8:05 p.m., Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
SB Nation blog: Lone Star Ball
Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (1-2, 6.68 ERA) vs. RHP Nick Tepesch (3-3, 4.03 ERA)
Tepesch was one of the names thrown around with the Porcello trade rumors prior to the season, and for good reason. Tepesch got off to a great start, going 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA in four starts in April. He hit a bit of a rough patch at the start of May, allowing five earned runs in consecutive starts against the White Sox and Cubs. He rebounded in his last start against the Houston Astros, allowing one run in six innings. Overall, he is walking just 2.37 batters per nine innings this year, but seven of his 10 walks on the season have come in his last three starts.
He also has 30 strikeouts in 38 innings, which seems to be on par with his pitching repertoire. He relies primarily on a mix of fastballs, including a two-seamer averaging 90 miles per hour and a cutter that sits in the mid 80s. He also throws a curveball that sits in the high 70s and a changeup in the low to mid 80s. Of his five pitches, his curveball and cutter are his out pitches. Opposing hitters are whiffing about 13% of the time on both pitches, which have combined to rank 3.9 runs above average according to PitchFX.
What a difference a few starts can make. After his meltdown in Los Angeles, Porcello has allowed eight earned runs in 19 1/3 innings while striking out 18 hitters compared to four walks. He has improved his season-long strikeout rate to 5.85 batters per nine innings, the highest rate of his career. The big difference? Opposing hitters can't touch his changeup compared to previous seasons. In previous years, hitters have swung and missed at the change 12% of the time. This year? He's approaching 20%, and hitters are offering at the pitch more often. This could be small sample noise, but it could also be improved arm action in the mechanical adjustments he made during the offseason and after his L.A. debacle. The curveball has looked good in his past couple starts, but the changeup might be the out pitch we have clamoring for from Kid Rick.
For whenever Craig Gentry starts in center field in this series
I don't know why this was on my computer, but it was. Gentry's glove is legit.
I mean, it can't get any worse than last night, right? Porcello has strung together three consecutive solid outings and has the second best ERA in the rotation in the month of May. He hasn't been too bad in Texas throughout his career given how good their lineup has been over the past few years, and put together an excellent start against the Rangers last June to pick up a victory. He will need to be on his game again tonight, especially with a depleted bullpen behind him. The offense can help out by giving him an early lead to work with. However, I think they will struggle with Tepesch (at least early on) since they have never seen him before.
Tepesch puts together a solid outing and the Texas offensive machine keeps on rolling.