Houston Astros (10-21) at Detroit Tigers (17-9)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: The Crawfish Boxes
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jarred Cosart (1-2, 5.52 ERA) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (3-1, 2.08 ERA)
Jarred Cosart debuted with the Astros in 2013, allowing a 1.95 ERA in 60 innings as a 23 year old. Pretty good, right? Yes, but it comes with a boatload of caveats -- enough to write an article titled "Jarred Cosart and the world's worst 1.95 ERA." He walked more batters than he struck out, stranded 85.9% of baserunners, and allowed a .246 BABIP. This season, Cosart's regression came in the form of a Porcello-esque meltdown against the Oakland A's on April 18th. Cosart gave up seven runs in one-third of an inning, walking four without a strikeout. If we strike that outing from his record, he is sitting at a comfortable 3.52 ERA in 30 2/3 innings of work.
Regardless of how hard regression hits him in 2014, Cosart is already beating the odds. A 38th round pick out of high school by the Phillies in 2008, he was traded to the Astros three years later in the deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia. By that point, he was considered a top 100 prospect thanks to a power fastball-curveball combination. His heater has enough natural movement on it for PitchFX to classify it as a cutter. If that were not enough, it's also coming at hitters at 95 miles per hour. The curveball, which he throws about 25% of the time, sits right around 80 miles per hour. The development of his changeup appears to have stalled -- he has only thrown five all season -- but an improvement in fastball command has helped Cosart be effective, especially against left-handed hitters. Cosart has held lefties to a .592 OPS (compared to .755 for righties) in his short career.
Max Scherzer wasn't particularly efficient in his last start, but that's about the only criticism that can be made. Scherzer tossed six shutout innings, allowing four hits while striking out seven. Dating back to 2013 (including the postseason), it was Scherzer's 10th consecutive start with at least seven strikeouts. The Astros have the highest strikeout rate in baseball at 24.3%, an improvement on last year's 25.5% rate. Scherzer fanned 15 Astros in two starts against them last season, but did allow five runs in his outing at Comerica Park.
Hitter to fear: Carlos Corporan (.400/.500/1.600 in 6 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Matt Dominguez (.167/.167/.167 in 6 plate appearances)
Dexter Fowler is the only Astro with double digit plate appearances against Scherzer, and most of them came back in 2009 when Max was with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against Scherzer in 2012. Carlos Corporan homered twice in six plate appearances against Scherzer last season, both of which were solo shots. Former Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez also homered off Scherzer in 2013. Chris Carter, Jose Altuve, Jason Castro, and Marwin Gonzalez are all hitless.
Despite the recent debut of hotshot prospect George Springer, the Astros are still very much a team in rebuilding mode. They have lost four of their last five games and already sport the worst record in baseball. Meanwhile, the Tigers have the best record in the American League and are tied with the San Francisco Giants for the longest current winning streak in the majors. The difference between these teams is huge on paper, but a pitcher like Cosart has the chance to equalize things in a hurry if he is on. A righty-heavy lineup will help neutralize Cosart's reverse splits, but anyone with that kind of stuff is tough to handle. Getting to the bullpen quickly needs to be a priority tonight.
Max doesn't get much support from the offense but still picks up his fourth win of the year.