Los Angeles Angels (8-9) at Detroit Tigers (8-6)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Halos Heaven
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Hector Santiago (0-2, 4.96 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (1-1, 4.15 ERA)
We all remember Porcello's two starts against the Angels last season: the nine-run first inning in Anaheim, capped off by a Mike Trout grand slam, and the debacle in Detroit, where he gave up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings. Each of the losses featured multiple ground balls through the infield, some of which could have been played. Remove those two stains from Porcello's record, and his ERA drops from 4.43 down to 3.61 for the season -- very close to his fielding independent pitching average (FIP).
That was exactly one year ago, to the day. Now, the Tigers have a brand new infield. There are different players at each position around the horn, and Porcello is hoping they will give him more help than he got last season. But he will also have to do his part. In his first start against Baltimore, he went 6 2/3 innings, allowing just three hits and one run. Last weekend in San Diego was a different story, as he gave up five runs on ten hits, many of them sharply hit lasers to the outfield. On the bright side, Porcello doesn't walk many batters, and continues to have one of the lowest walk rates in the league.
The Angels will send a familiar face to the mound in left-hander Hector Santiago, whom they acquired with starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs in a three-way trade that sent Mark Trumbo to Arizona, and Adam Eaton to the White Sox. The deal gave the Angels two of their five current starting pitchers for Trumbo.
Santiago holds a career 3.51 ERA over three seasons with Chicago, with some interesting reverse splits that show more success against right-handed hitters mainly due to being able to keep the ball in the park. He is 0-2 against the Tigers, with a 2.48 ERA and a hitters' slash line of .229/.354/.371 for an OPS against of .725 in just over 100 plate appearances. In other words, better performance than his win-loss record would suggest.
Hitter to fear: Mike Trout has a career line of .400/.455/.700/1.155 with a grand slam in 11 plate appearances against Porcello.
Hitter to fail: Erick Aybar has hit just .211/.318/.263/.581 in 20 plate appearances against Kid Rick.
Porcello is fortunate not to have to face Josh Hamilton, who has killed him over the years. Hamilton is out for two months following surgery on his thumb. John MacDonald is the only other Angel to have taken him deep. Every Angel hitter has gotten at least one hit against Porcello at some time in his career.
The Angels lead the league in runs scored, while the Tigers are 13th of 15 teams. Over half of their runs have been scored in the first inning. The Angels have owned the Tigers in recent years, and they've clobbered Porcello more than any other Tigers pitcher. Santiago is winless on the season and winless in his career against Detroit, despite having very good numbers against them. Something has to give.
For the Tigers, this would be a good time for Porcello to keep the ball down and for their infield to give him some support. A lineup stacked with right-handed hitters needs to be patient and get a few key hits against a lefty who doesn't give up many extra base hits to right-handers.
Angels win the game and the series. See you in Orange County in July.