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Game 96 Preview: Tigers at Royals

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Justin Verlander will look to build on his last outing tonight against the Kansas City Royals. Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie starts for the Royals.

USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers (52-43) at Kansas City Royals (44-49)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium

SB Nation blog: Royals Review

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (10-6, 3.50 ERA) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (8-7, 4.25 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Verlander 20 126.0 8.93 3.21 0.71 1.34 3.23 3.69 3.0
Guthrie 19 120.2 4.33 3.21 1.64 1.38 5.68 5.19 -0.5

Guthrie stymied the Tigers offense back in early June, holding them to two runs in 6 1/3 innings to pick up his seventh win of the season. He had a 3.60 ERA after that start. Since then, the wheels have come off. He is 1-4 with a 5.80 ERA in his last six starts. He has more walks (15) than strikeouts (14) in those 35 2/3 innings and has allowed six home runs.

Overall, it's surprising that Guthrie was successful for two months and change with such horrible peripherals. He has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.35 and he is allowing 1.64 home runs per nine innings on the year. He was successful because of a strand rate approaching 80% and a fly ball rate of 37.2%. His BABIP at home was a paltry .196 prior to his first start against the Tigers, resulting in a 2.78 home ERA. Those numbers have since regressed to a. 218 BABIP and a 4.26 ERA.

Meanwhile, Justin Verlander is trending in the opposite direction of Guthrie. Verlander was dominant in his last start, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers. He is 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in his last four starts, but only has 15 strikeouts to 10 walks in those 29 innings. His fastball command is still spotty -- he seemed to shy away from throwing it in his last start -- but his secondary pitches have been excellent. Each of them have a whiff rate above 11% on the year.

Tonight, I'm interested in seeing how Verlander looks following the quad tightness that took him out of his last start an inning early. He had a few extra days of rest thanks to the All-Star Break, but part of me wonders if this is an injury that has been bugging him for a little while. It may or may not be related to some of his mechanical issues, particularly those throwing off his fastball command.

Outlook

When I originally looked at the matchups for this weekend, this was slated to be the third iteration of Verlander vs. James Shields in 2013. You can imagine my disappointment when I awoke this morning to find that the Tigers were facing Guthrie instead. Given Royals GM Dayton Moore's recent comments about his team's potential -- including a "there's no reason this team can't go on a [15 of 20] run" -- you have to wonder if this is a strategic move by manager Ned Yost. If Guthrie dominates the Tigers yet again, Yost looks brilliant. If the Tigers light him up like everyone else has over the past month, then they still have Shields going tomorrow with a chance to win the series.

Prediction

The offense gets to Guthrie early and Verlander makes the slim lead stand up for a W.