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Game 122 Preview: Royals at Tigers

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Tigers rookie Jose Alvarez will get the toughest matchup of his young career tonight, facing Royals ace James Shields in the nightcap of today's doubleheader.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals (63-57) at Detroit Tigers (71-50)

Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Royals Review

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP James Shields (7-8, 3.33 ERA) vs. LHP Jose Alvarez (1-2, 5.03 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Shields 25 167.2 7.30 2.79 0.97 1.28 3.85 4.00 2.5
Alvarez 4 19.2 7.78 3.20 2.29 1.42 5.99 4.05 -0.2

Shields' August numbers aren't too pretty, but a lot of that has to do with a seven run implosion against the Minnesota Twins 10 days ago. He gave up three home runs during the outing. While this is the second time he has allowed at least two dingers in his last five starts, he has also struggled with his command. He has given up 10 walks in his last 19 innings of work, including five in another start against the Twins on August 1st.

Oddly enough, neither the homers nor the walks are Shields' biggest issue. Since the All-Star Break, Shields has 20 strikeouts in 33 innings, or just 5.45 per nine innings. He was fanning 7.75 batters per nine innings prior to the break. Is this just a small sample? We can't be sure, but he has seen second half lulls like this before. He raced out to an unsustainable 2.33 ERA in the first half of 2011, and while his second half ERA was still a tidy 3.46, his strikeout numbers dipped considerably and his home run rate went up.

Alvarez didn't last long in his last big league outing, allowing five runs (four earned) in three innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 1st. Since then, the Tigers are 28-11. Alvarez hasn't been too bad himself, going 3-2 with a 2.78 ERA in seven starts -- including five quality starts -- down at Triple-A Toledo. He only issued nine walks in those seven starts. He will need to mix his pitches without tipping his changeup -- something it seemed he was doing in his last couple big league starts -- in order to be successful tonight.

Outlook

I'm a bit surprised by Ned Yost's decision to start Shields in the second game of the doubleheader instead of sending him up against Verlander. For one, the entire basis for the Shields trade was to bring in a bona fide ace to stabilize their starting rotation. It seems odd to essentially throw away the first game of this doubleheader given how far out of the division and Wild Card races Kansas City currently is.

And yet, it worked. Now the Royals have Shields on the mound against a rookie that looked overmatched the last time he faced a big league offense. Will the offense's Friday night home surges continue? Or will Shields give the Royals a sweep and keep their hopes alive for another day?

Prediction

Shields struggles but the Royals win in a shootout.

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