Texas Rangers (53-39) at Detroit Tigers (50-41)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Lone Star Ball
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Grimm (7-6, 5.88 ERA) vs. RHP Doug Fister (6-5, 4.07 ERA)
Grimm was solid against the Tigers back in May, allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings in a 7-2 Rangers win. Since then, he has been anything but, allowing a 7.54 ERA in his last nine starts. He has averaged five innings per start during this span, and opposing hitters are teeing off at a .328/.376/.577 clip against him.
He has been very homer prone as well, allowing 10 homers in his last seven starts. His problems aren't a product of pitching in Arlington, either. He has given up seven of his 15 home runs on the road this year, and he has a 6.81 road ERA in eight starts. While the ERA may be a bit misleading, his 4.88 FIP and 1.69 WHIP away from home are not.
Grimm relies primarily on a fastball-curveball combination, with the occasional changeup thrown to both lefties and righties. Opposing batters are hitting just .218 with a .118 ISO against the curveball, making it his only pitch that ranks as league average. His fastball and changeup rank 1.04 and 3.73 runs below average per 100 pitches, respectively.
Meanwhile, Fister seems to have hit quite the rough patch recently. In his last four starts, he has allowed 19 earned runs in 22 1/3 innings, ballooning his ERA from 3.21 to 4.06. He has allowed 31 hits in this stretch, including five home runs. He has only hit one batter in those four starts, but is that part of the problem? Fister plunked 12 batters in April and May, and opposing hitters had a .341 slugging average against him. Since then, Fister has only hit one batter and has allowed a .425 slugging average.
Miguel Cabrera is quite good at baseball
Just in case you had forgotten.
Fister was hit around by the Rangers in his start in Arlington, allowing five runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. It seemed like a speed bump for Fister at that point, as he allowed a 2.61 ERA in his next five starts. This recent stretch might be a similar bump in the road -- albeit one that is lasting a bit longer -- and Fister's abysmal career numbers against Texas are misleading. He has a lifetime 6.00 ERA against the Rangers, but most of those problems stem from his troubles in Arlington. Outside of Texas, he has a respectable 3.66 ERA in five starts against the Rangers.
Meanwhile, Grimm's troubles don't seem to have an easy fix. He's giving up way too many hits, especially on the road, and his recent homer troubles aren't helping. His walk rate has held steady away from home, and his strikeout rate is actually a bit higher on the road. Add in the fact that the bats seem to come out on Friday nights at Comerica -- the Tigers are 5-1 and scoring 7.8 runs per game in Friday night home games this year -- and there's no reason to think Grimm will suddenly put it all together tonight.
The offense picks up Fister tonight and the Tigers get back on track with a win.