Kansas City Royals (62-57) at Detroit Tigers (71-49)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Royals Review
Pitching Matchup: LHP Danny Duffy (0-0, 4.91 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (12-8, 3.57 ERA)
Duffy had a promising start to the 2012 season, going 2-2 with a 4.00 ERA in his first five starts. Something went wrong in his sixth start, causing him to leave the game in the first inning. Shortly after, Duffy went under the knife to have Tommy John Surgery in his left elbow. He made his 2013 debut on August 7th, allowing two runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins. He gave up six hits, struck out seven, and walked two.
Duffy's road back to the majors seemed to be a bit longer than most other pitchers. He made 15 appearances (13 starts) between Double- and Triple-A this year, amassing a 3-2 record, 4.08 ERA, and 1.34 WHIP. This includes a 3-0 record and 4.12 ERA in the notoriously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where he struck out over a batter per inning but still walked over four batters per nine innings.
Throughout his short career, the 24 year old Duffy has relied on a big fastball, resting at 94-95 miles per hour. The heater is his bread and butter: he throws it 62% of the time overall and over 80% of the time on the first pitch of an at-bat. Once he gets ahead, he goes to his curveball, throwing it over 30% of the time in favorable counts. He uses his changeup against righties more than lefties, but at 6.2 runs below average for his career, it hasn't exactly been his most effective offering.
Other than a hanging slider to Alfonso Soriano, I thought Verlander pitched fairly well in his last start. His fastball wasn't what it was in Cleveland, but it was still much better than in other starts we have seen this year. He did a nice job of using his curveball to set up the fastball, and vice versa, racking up nine strikeouts in seven innings. If not for a pair of check swing doubles and a home run by Alex Rodriguez to a short left field porch, doubters would be singing a much different tune about Verlander's last two outings.
Duffy doesn't seem to be on any sort of pitch count at this point, throwing 93 pitches in his last start. However, he has had command issues throughout his career, walking 4.68 batters per nine innings. If Verlander reverts to his early season form, the Tigers could be in trouble. Given Verlander's career numbers against the Royals and his recent tweaks, we could see him do just that.
Verlander has his best start of the season today.