Detroit Tigers (54-44) at Chicago White Sox (39-57)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (6-6, 4.80 ERA) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (3-5, 3.30 ERA)
Santiago has been in and out of the White Sox rotation all season long, with his latest stint as a starter beginning in June. If his numbers are to be believed, the Sox might want to keep him in the rotation. As a starter, Santiago is 3-3 with a 3.13 ERA with 76 strikeouts and 29 walks in 69 innings. He has allowed just five runs in his last 19 2/3 innings but has three no-decisions to his credit thanks to a listless Sox offense. He has done a great job of making early adjustments, holding opposing batters to a .631 OPS the second time through the order -- though a .212 BABIP definitely helps.
One of Santiago's biggest issues is his high walk rate. He has issued more than four base on balls per nine innings this season, a sharp improvement over the 5.12 per nine he gave up last year. If he weren't holding opposing hitters to a .212 batting average, the walk rate would be much more worrisome. His .273 BABIP seems a bit low for a pitcher who allows line drives at a 22% clip, but as long as he continues to keep the ball in the yard -- a 10% home run to fly ball rate isn't too bad for that bandbox -- he should continue to be successful.
Santiago has excelled at getting right-handed batters out this season, holding them to a .659 OPS compared to .777 against left-handed hitters. He is throwing his changeup much more often this season, but the jump in that usage rate has more to do with the number of right-handed batters he is facing. In reality, his fastball has been his best pitch this season, ranking 5.6 runs above average. He also throws an occasional screwball, which righties are hitting for just a .167 batting average.
Porcello didn't have much success against the White Sox in his first three years in the big leagues, but something apparently clicked last season. In five starts against the Pale Hose since the start of 2012, Porcello has a 2.43 ERA and 23 strikeouts to just three walks in 33 1/3 innings. He picked up a quality start against the Sox prior to the All-Star Break, allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings in the Tigers' only win of that series. He has seemingly bounced back from a couple of rough outings in June, allowing a 2.84 ERA in his last three starts.
The Tigers will likely have a plethora of scoring opportunities against Santiago tonight. His 1.25 WHIP is pretty good for someone with his walk rate, but the Tigers have one of the highest walk rates in baseball and should get plenty of runners on base against him. The real question is whether they can take advantage. Santiago has a 77.9% strand rate and is holding opposing teams to a .215 batting average with runners on base.
With Miguel Cabrera likely out tonight after leaving last night's game with a sore hip flexor, the onus falls on the other big bats in the lineup to do the damage. Given Victor Martinez's recent hot streak and Prince Fielder's improved approach against left-handed pitchers this season, they should be able to get the job done.
Porcello keeps rolling against the Sox and the Tigers finally go 11 games over .500.