Minnesota Twins (18-25) at Detroit Tigers (25-19)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
*It looks like this will only be on MLB Network for those in the Cleveland or Boston markets, but honestly it's anyone's guess
Pitching Matchup: LHP Scott Diamond (3-4, 4.99 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (2-2, 5.92 ERA)
I was in a great mood this morning until I realized that the Tigers would be facing Diamond this evening. Diamond is becoming a Tiger killer before our very eyes, allowing a 2.72 ERA in six career starts against Detroit. He followed up back-to-back quality starts in September of 2012 with a solid outing on May 1st, allowing two runs on just four hits in six innings. He doesn't own the Tigers as badly as he has dominated the Cleveland Indians -- 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA in five starts -- but his 59 tOPS+ against the Tigers would put him squarely atop this list with a few more innings under his belt. Given the numbers he has put up against just about everyone else, I have concluded that Diamond is a robot constructed by the Twins to conquer the rest of the league. However, in true Twins fashion, they have only figured out how to beat teams in the AL Central.
Against other teams, Diamond has shown that he is, in fact, mortal. In his last two starts, he has allowed a combined 12 runs on 17 hits in 10 innings. Four of those hits were home runs, three of which came courtesy of the dinger-happy Baltimore Orioles. His normally excellent command also went array, as he allowed three walks in each start. For reference, he only allowed three walks in a start twice in all of 2012. His strikeout rate has never been anything to write home about -- he embodies the Twins' pitch-to-contact philosophy as well as anyone since Scott Baker -- but he only has six strikeouts in his four May starts.
Is this the real Rick Porcello? After his horrid outing in Los Angeles, Porcello has pitched 25 innings in four outings. He has allowed nine runs for a 3.24 ERA and has 24 strikeouts to just five walks. He was the only Tigers starter to slow down the Texas Rangers' offense, holding them to a run in 5 2/3 innings. He has a 0.96 WHIP, which may be related to his .254 BABIP during this same span. Overall, Porcello's FIP and xFIP are once again outperforming his ERA. He has been particularly homer prone this season, resulting in an xFIP of 3.42. However, if we take his L.A. start out of the equation, Porcello would have a 3.86 ERA and 1.07 WHIP on the season. I'm not ready to proclaim that 2013 is his breakout season just yet, but he's definitely making his case as of late.
Since we last met...
The Twins are 6-13 since they left Detroit at the beginning of the month, but that doesn't tell the whole story. They started off 6-5, inexplicably winning three of four games in Boston. They were 18-17 at the time. Over the last nine days, the wheels have come off, and the Twins have lost eight straight, including three to those same Red Sox in Minnesota. Vance Worley, the only Twins starter not originally scheduled to pitch in this series, was sent down to Triple-A yesterday after his loss to the Atlanta Braves.
Sweeping a series in Cleveland is always satisfying, but winning this series against the Twins is important with the rough stretch following this weekend. The Tigers play the Pittsburgh Pirates -- who have the third-best record in baseball at the moment -- the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, and the same Indians that they just swept in the following two weeks. Tonight, they need to take advantage of any mistakes by Diamond, especially since he seems to be making more than usual as of late.
Porcello pitches well, but Diamond pitches better. Twins win a low-scoring game.