Detroit Tigers (4-2) at Los Angeles Dodgers (6-3)
Time/Place: 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium
SB Nation blog: True Blue LA
Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (0-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Beckett (0-5, 5.19 ERA in 2013)
Depending on which metric you use, Josh Beckett was awful, okay, or above average in 2013. Such is life with small sample sizes, which occurred because Beckett missed four months due to surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He allowed 30 runs (25 earned) in just 43 1/3 innings, including eight home runs. It was this high home run rate that led to a 4.66 FIP, which is high for someone with a 2.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If you don't buy Beckett's homer troubles -- they have never really been an issue before -- then xFIP and SIERA both indicate that he was better than league average.
So which pitcher is he? That remains to be seen. He only logged eight innings during Spring Training, and allowed three runs in four innings during his lone rehab start for the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. The list of starters that have successfully returned from this surgery is growing, though none -- save for maybe Chris Carpenter in the 2012 postseason -- returned to their prior level of performance. Carpenter retired after missing the entire 2013 season with the same issue, while none of the other recent pitchers to go under the knife have achieved the level of success that Beckett has.
That said, Beckett was on the disabled list for a thumb injury, which seems to be fine. I still have no idea what he is going to throw. We could see 100% eephus pitches (eephi?), which would probably lead to nine strikeouts in seven scoreless innings.
On the "thank the lucky stars our starters are healthy" side of the ledger, Anibal Sanchez allowed a pair of runs in his first inning of work against the Baltimore Orioles, but calmed down to pitch three scoreless innings before leaving after a rain delay. He walked three batters in four innings of work and generally did not seem very sharp, throwing just nine of 17 first pitch strikes. However, it was his first time facing live big league competition in nearly an entire month. Sanchez's last Spring Training start was on March 12th, and he missed an opportunity to get some work in when the Tigers' exhibition game against the Washington Nationals in D.C. was rained out.
Hitter to fear: Justin Turner (.400/.571/.400 in 7 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Andre Ethier (.125/.125/.125 in 8 plate appearances)
You would think that a pitcher who spent 6 1/2 years in the National League would have more than four career starts against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but this is the case for Sanchez. As such, Ethier's eight plate appearances against him are the most of any active Dodger. Sanchez has allowed a career .376 slugging average against the Dodgers, and no active player has an extra base hit off him. For the Tigers, Alex Avila has a career 1.255 OPS against Beckett in 11 plate appearances.
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Sanchez only threw 69 pitches in his last start, so we probably are not going to get the full version of the reigning AL ERA king until next week. His pitch count will likely be monitored closely until the team is confident that the shoulder issue he dealt with in Spring Training is behind him. Offensively, I would like to see the Tigers make more in-game adjustments. Dan Haren was only using the outside of the plate last night -- just as Jason Vargas did last week -- and the Tigers seemed stumped. Beckett does not have Haren's pinpoint command, so we will probably see a few more baserunners this evening.
Sanchez and the bullpen combine to give the Tigers a split.