Los Angeles Angels (8-8) at Detroit Tigers (7-6)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Halos Heaven
Media: Fox Sports 1, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP C.J. Wilson (2-1, 3.92 ERA) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (0-1, 2.70 ERA)
C.J. Wilson has been a strikeout machine in his first three starts, racking up seven punchouts in each outing. Of course, all three opposing offenses -- the Mariners, Astros, and Mets -- ranked among the five highest strikeout rates in baseball last year. Wilson allowed six runs against the Seattle Mariners in his first outing, but shook off the poor debut to allow just three runs in his next two starts combined. One interesting tidbit about Wilson's approach in 2014 is that he is working at a quicker pace in years past. He has averaged 21.4 seconds between pitches in 2014, his fastest clip since joining the Angels in 2012.
Wilson uses one of the most diverse arsenals in the big leagues, throwing a mix of six pitches on a regular basis. Like Jered Weaver yesterday, his repertoire varies significantly based on the handedness of the batter. Righties rarely see the slider and far less of the four-seam fastball, while lefties primarily get a four-seamer/slider/curveball combination. Wilson even got creative against the Houston Astros, throwing a supposed knuckleball in the blowout victory.
Max Scherzer was not his usual sharp self in his last outing, allowing four runs and three walks in just five innings against the San Diego Padres. He did strike out 10, however, and recorded three more outs via the groundout. It's early, but Scherzer's ground ball rate has climbed to its highest rate since he joined the Tigers. He will never be Rick Porcello -- in terms of ground ball rate, lay off -- but a slight hike in ground ball rate could be in store if his curveball usage keeps climbing.
Hitter to fear: Chris Iannetta (.364/.385/.636 in 13 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Erick Aybar (.182/.182/.273 in 11 plate appearances)
Iannetta is one of three Angels hitters -- four if you count Brennan Boesch's triple in two at-bats -- with an OPS above 1.000 against Scherzer. Iannetta, Ian Stewart, and Mike Trout have all homered against Max as well. On a positive note, Scherzer has also racked up plenty of strikeouts, including five by Trout in 10 at-bats. Overall, Scherzer has allowed a 2.39 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in four starts against the Angels.
Giving up 11 runs is never a good idea if you're trying to win a baseball game, but the offense's late arrival was somewhat encouraging. The Tigers lost a similar contest with Wilson on the mound last season, but tagged him for five earned runs in five innings. Meanwhile, the last time the Tigers beat the Angels, Max Scherzer was on the mound. He did not face the Angels in 2013.
Scherzer returns to form and leads the Tigers back into the win column.