Seattle Mariners (66-84) at Detroit Tigers (87-63)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Lookout Landing
Pitching Matchup: RHP Brandon Maurer (4-8, 7.18 ERA) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (14-7, 2.50 ERA)
I had to do a double take at first when I saw Maurer's ERA, but yes, it really is that high. He only lasted three innings in his last start, allowing five runs on seven hits in a loss to the Houston Astros. Prior to that, he had spent the better part of two months in the Mariners' bullpen where he allowed 15 runs in 20 1/3 innings. He began the season in the rotation, but was sent down to the minors in late May after starting the season 2-7 with a 6.93 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP.
Truthfully, Maurer's peripherals aren't that bad. Sure, he is only striking out 6.56 batters per nine innings after fanning almost a batter per inning throughout his minor league career and he's allowing too many home runs, but these are minor qualms when you consider how high his ERA is. Joe Saunders' ERA is over two runs lower and you could make the argument that Maurer looks better on paper. Maurer's biggest issue? Aside from the home run rate, he is only stranding 62.7% of baserunners this season. Opposing batters are hitting a whopping .400/.451/.638 with runners on base off Maurer in 2013.
For a former 23rd round pick, Maurer seems to have some pretty good stuff. His fastball averages 94-95 miles per hour and he has a slider with a 17.7% whiff rate. His changeup and curveball need work, though the curve is the only pitch that hasn't been hit for a home run this year. At 23, Maurer was probably rushed to the big leagues, having never pitched at Triple-A prior to the 2013 season.
Trivia time: who leads the Tigers in starts with no runs allowed in 2013? You may be thinking Anibal Sanchez since he's starting tonight, but you'd be wrong because I didn't research the answer to this question before I typed the previous sentence. Sanchez logged his fifth scoreless outing of the season in his last start, holding the Chicago White Sox to just five hits in 7 1/3 innings while striking out ten.
The leader? Justin Verlander with six.
The Tigers offense hasn't been playing very well recently, especially against below average pitchers. Maurer fits the mold of an Andre Rienzo or Danny Salazar in that he's (a) right-handed, (b) throws hard, and (c) has never faced the Tigers before. The first two had decent outings but ultimately lost close games when the Tigers offense finally came around in the later innings. I see no reason for the pattern to change here. Meanwhile, Sanchez should flourish against a Mariners lineup that rank among the worst in the league in contact rates and strikeout rate.
The Tigers stretch their winning streak to three with another close win.