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Game 88 Preview: Tigers at Royals

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Last time Jeremy Guthrie and Drew Smyly faced one another, the Tigers and Royals scored a combined three runs. Will we see another pitcher's duel tonight?

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Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers (50-37) at Kansas City Royals (47-43)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium

SB Nation blog: Royals Review

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: LHP Drew Smyly (4-8, 3.89 ERA) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (5-7, 4.02 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Smyly 14 81.0 7.56 3.00 1.22 1.37 4.24 4.03 0.8
Guthrie 18 116.1 5.65 2.24 1.32 1.29 4.71 4.39 0.5

Jeremy Guthrie stymied the Tigers' offense three weeks ago, allowing a single run in 6 2/3 innings while striking out nine. This has been Guthrie's MO since he joined the Royals, however. He allowed an .897 OPS and a 1.76 WHIP against the Tigers last season, but beat them twice in games that probably had the #TTBDNS hashtag trending worldwide. While he only allowed five Tigers to reach base at Comerica Park on June 18th, Guthrie has allowed a whopping 30 baserunners in his last 18 1/3 innings.

As I alluded to above, however, this is who Guthrie is. He eats innings, and is averaging over 6 1/3 innings per start in 2014. He doesn't strike many hitters out, though is inducing a blistering 5.65 whiffs per nine innings this year. He gets a boatload of fly ball outs -- his 39.2 percent fly ball rate is tied for 12th in the American League -- and strands runners at a higher than expected clip (77.5 percent in 2014). Home runs have always been a problem, and once again Guthrie is among the league leaders in dingers allowed.

Drew Smyly has two career outings of seven innings or longer. Both of them have been against the Royals this season. Smyly shut down the Royals at Kauffman Stadium back in May, holding them to just two hits in seven shutout innings. He was saddled with a hard-luck loss just over a month later when he allowed a pair of runs on seven hits. Things haven't been so rosy lately, however. Smyly has given up nine runs on 15 hits in his last 7 2/3 innings. Prior to that, Smyly had only given up six runs (four earned) in his previous 25 innings.

Hitter to fear: Billy Butler (.545/.583/.636 in 12 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Alex Gordon (.118/.211/.118 in 19 plate appearances)

Five Royals hitters have an OPS of .800 or better against Smyly. Four are right-handed, and the fifth is Raul Ibanez, who has a double in two plate appearances. While Butler has been the most successful of the foursome -- big surprise -- Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain have also been dangerous, while Omar Infante is 1-for-6 with a homer. Royals lefties have struggled against Smyly, naturally, with Alex Gordon looking a bit more lost than the rest. Ironically, lefty Mike Moustakas has fared much better than his right-handed platoon mate, Danny Valencia.

Outlook

We can talk about any number of different angles to this game, but it seems that Smyly's platoon splits are all that matter. Righties are now hitting .319/.386/.543 off him while lefties have a .365 OPS. The Royals only see a platoon advantage in 49% of their plate appearances, one of the lowest in the American League. Smyly will need to take advantage of this -- in particular, any lefties Ned Yost dares send out -- in order to give the Tigers' offense a chance to get to Guthrie. While his numbers are not impressive on paper, he has been quite stingy at Kauffman Stadium since arriving in Kansas City.

Prediction

Smyly rebounds and picks up his fifth win of the year.

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