Chicago White Sox (35-52) at Detroit Tigers (49-40)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Pitching Matchup: RHP Dylan Axelrod (3-5, 4.97 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (5-6, 4.82 ERA)
Axelrod has been somewhat of a disappointment in the White Sox rotation this season. After posting a 5.03 ERA in seven starts in 2012, Axelrod was expected to progress -- if even just a little bit -- in 2013. If anything, he has regressed slightly. He is only striking out 5.07 batters per nine innings in 2013 compared to the 6.9 batters per nine he struck out as a starter in 2012. Meanwhile, his walk rate has held steady at 2.9 batters per nine innings.
One of his main problems is the home run ball. He has allowed 17 home runs in 17 starts after giving up six in his seven starts last season. This isn't simply a product of pitching in a hitter's park either. He has allowed eight home runs on the road this season. Combine the homer problems with his 1.775 road WHIP and you begin to see why he's 1-4 with a 5.32 ERA away from home this season. He didn't make it out of the second inning in his last start, allowing five runs on nine hits against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Axelrod relies on a mix of fastballs that sit in the high 80s. He uses his four-seamer more often against right-handers and his two-seamer against lefties, especially when behind in the count. Once he gets ahead, he uses his slider against right-handers and a mix of off-speed pitches, including a curveball and changeup, against lefties. His changeup has been his best pitch this season, ranking 1.15 runs above average per 100 pitches. It's also the only pitch that opposing batters aren't hitting at least .250 against. His curveball is the only pitch that at least one hitter hasn't taken deep in 2013.
Rick Porcello's last start, on the other hand, went quite well. He threw seven shutout innings against the Cleveland Indians, marking his third quality start against them in 2013. He had similar success against the White Sox in 2012, tossing three quality starts in four outings against the Pale Hose. Overall, he was 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA and 0.805 WHIP against them last year.
Don't be surprised if the Tigers come out swinging against Axelrod. He has a modest 57% first pitch strike rate in 2013 and will most likely want to get ahead of the big bats in this Tigers lineup. They might take a little while to get going, however. Axelrod is allowing a .689 OPS in his first 25 pitches of a game in 2013. Over the next 25 pitches, that OPS jumps to a whopping 1.037. Given the Tigers' tendency to jump on opposing pitchers at home, I'm not sure I like Axelrod's chances of making it too deep into this game.
The offense rebounds and the Tigers pick up their 50th win of 2013.