Kansas City Royals (62-56) at Detroit Tigers (70-49)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Royals Review
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (12-8, 4.10 ERA) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (10-7, 2.58 ERA)
Guthrie has been on a bit of a tear lately, winning four of his last five starts. The first win in that stretch was against the Tigers back on July 20th, but he still allowed five runs on 10 hits in six innings. In the four starts after that, Guthrie is 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA and 22 strikeouts to five walks in 27 innings of work. This includes a four hit shutout he pitched against the Minnesota Twins, his second of the season. His winning streak was snapped in his last start when he allowed five runs in six innings against the Boston Red Sox.
While he has posted some gaudy stats (for him), the most impressive number during this stretch might be 1. He has allowed just one home run in his last five starts. This is his best five start stretch in terms of home runs allowed since 2007. Overall, his home run per fly ball rate (HR/FB%) is elevated, leaving him on pace to allow 30+ homers for the third time in his career.
Guthrie's ERA might not be much different at home compared to on the road, but his peripherals are. Opposing batters are hitting .243/.307/.364 against him at Kauffman Stadium this year, but a blazing .290/.365/.505* away from Kansas City. He is allowing nearly two homers per nine innings, his walk rate is elevated, and his FIP is a whopping 5.83 on the road. His only saving grace is that he is stranding 83.5% of baserunners, a number that would be considered unsustainable if we were looking at more than a third of a season's worth of starts.
*Jose Bautista is hitting .261/.358/.502 this season, for reference.
I wouldn't be surprised if Anibal Sanchez is confused by the ample run support he has been getting lately. He is 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA in his last four starts, with the no-decision coming when the Tigers tagged Chris Perez for a blown save in Cleveland. Meanwhile, Sanchez has received 24 combined runs from the offense in those four games, including nine runs in his last start against the New York Yankees. He hasn't fallen into the "pitching to the score" trap yet, however. If we include his last start against the Royals, Sanchez is 3-1 with a 1.60 ERA in his five second half starts this year.
"There’s no reason this team can’t go on a run where you win 15 of 20."
The Royals headed into the All-Star Break having lost five consecutive games, falling eight games behind the Tigers in the Central. As you may remember, the Royals took two of three from Detroit in Kansas City to open the second half, and they haven't looked back since. They are now 19-7 since the break, but only after losing three of their last five games. Here's the crazy part: they have held their opposition to three runs or fewer in 18 of the 26 games they have played since the All-Star Break.
Oh, and they have picked up one half game on the Tigers during this period. The Royals might have held up Dayton Moore's end of the bargain, but a certain 12 game win streak is still making Moore look foolish.
Both Guthrie's and Sanchez's respective home/road splits suggest that this should be an easy Tigers win, but somehow I've got to twist this into a negative outlook to keep the masses happy. Guthrie is 7-3 with a 4.06 ERA in 13 career starts at Comerica Park. He has allowed 10 homers there, and his 97 tOPS+ at Comerica suggests he's been slightly better than his career average in Detroit. Additionally, the Royals are scoring 5.9 runs per game in his eight starts since July 1st (though a 13-0 whitewashing of the Twins helped that figure).
Meanwhile, Sanchez has... OK, I've got nothing here. He has been excellent. If he cuts down on the five walks he issued the last time he faced the Royals -- a fairly safe bet, I'd imagine -- then we should be in for a decent pitcher's duel.
Tigers lose because it's Thursday (they are 7-9 on Thursdays in 2013).