Detroit Tigers (39-32) at Cleveland Indians (37-38)
Time/Place: 1:05 p.m., Progressive Field
SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Max Scherzer (8-3, 3.84 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (4-4, 3.86 ERA)
Josh Tomlin got off to a hot start after his season debut in early May, picking up win in three of his first four outings. He pitched three innings in relief against the Tigers on May 21st, allowing a run in what ultimately ended as an 11-10 Indians victory. Since then, things have not gone so well. Tomlin is just 1-3 with a 4.55 ERA and 3.80 FIP in his last five starts. He has a sparkling 28:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio during this span, but has allowed five home runs. His defense has gotten in the way as well; of the 21 runs he has allowed in his last 29 2/3 innings, six are unearned.
Home run troubles are nothing new for Tomlin. He is a fly ball pitcher who has allowed 1.39 home runs per nine innings in his career. His 40.4% fly ball rate ranks 21st in the American League among starters with at least 50 innings pitched, just shy of Justin Verlander's 40.7%. The fact that Tomlin's fly ball rate is slightly lower than his career norms is surprising when you consider that he is throwing his four-seam fastball more often than ever before in 2014. He is throwing the four-seamer -- which tops out around 90 miles per hour -- 50% of the time. He also has a cutter (25%), changeup (7%), and curveball (16%). The changeup is featured almost exclusively against lefties, while his cutter is his go-to pitch when behind in the count against righties.
Max Scherzer was a disaster in his last start, allowing 10 runs on 10 hits in just four innings of work. He breezed through the first, third, and fourth innings, but gave up six runs on seven hits before recording an out in the second inning. He also allowed three hits to open the fourth inning before Brad Ausmus decided to go to the bullpen. Phil Coke did Scherzer's ERA no favors when he allowed both inherited runners to score.
Other than that little blow-up, Scherzer has been pretty good in 2014, save for one other outing: his last start against the Indians. The Tribe tagged him for a season-high 12 hits and seven runs in that wild 13 inning affair back on May 21st. It was a far cry from 2013, when Scherzer held them to a 2.70 ERA and .443 OPS in four starts.
Hitter to fear: Nick Swisher (.320/.433/.480 in 30 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Carlos Santana (.097/.243/.129 in 37 plate appearances)
Michael Brantley is not to be trusted. While Nick Swisher has a higher batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS against Scherzer, Brantley's .571 slugging average leads all active Indians. Of Brantley's 10 hits off Scherzer, seven have gone for extra bases, resulting in eight RBI. Swisher only has three extra base hits in 25 at-bats and has struck out 10 times. That last total is still three fewer than Asdrubal Cabrera, who has 13 strikeouts in 45 plate appearances. While Carlos Santana only has three hits in 31 at-bats, he has more walks (6) than strikeouts (4). He also has a pair of homers in the series already.
Both teams have been homer happy in this series, but the Indians' lack of clutch hitting -- they're 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position -- has made the difference in the last two games. Scherzer should be able to get back on track, though his numbers against lefties this season are a bit worrisome. Meanwhile, Tomlin has not started against the Tigers since 2011. Two holdovers from that Tigers roster -- Austin Jackson and Alex Avila -- both homered in that game.
Phil Coke reminds everyone he's not that good by allowing 85 home runs while Tomlin throws a 15 pitch perfect game.