Detroit Tigers (51-37) at Kansas City Royals (47-44)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation blog: Royals Review
Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (5-3, 3.18 ERA) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (5-8, 2.86 ERA)
Danny Duffy has already made a pair of starts against the Tigers this season, including a hard-luck loss against Anibal Sanchez on June 19th. Duffy allowed two runs and just four baserunners in seven innings, but took his sixth loss of the year due to a lack of run support. This has been a running theme for Duffy in 2014. Among qualified pitchers, Duffy receives the fifth-lowest number of runs per start. The Royals are just 5-7 when he takes the mound despite his 2.94 ERA as a starter. Duffy's other start against the Tigers resulted in a 9-2 Detroit victory, but Duffy only allowed a single run on two hits in four innings. It was his first start of the season, but four walks helped balloon his pitch count to 75 before he was pulled.
Speaking of walks, Duffy's command has been better in 2014, but it can still get the better of him at times. He has five starts with three walks or more, but his 19 percent walk rate is his lowest since 2011. However, it is still pretty high, one of the reasons why he has a 4.14 FIP as a starter. His ERA has stayed low largely thanks to a 78.8 percent strand rate, the ninth-highest in the American League. Opposing batters are hitting just .196/.296/.217 with runners in scoring position this year. He has limited the long ball with runners on base as well; five of the seven home runs he has allowed in 2014 have been solo shots.
Anibal Sanchez's last start was a rare sight for Tigers fans. While he has logged shorter outings, the seven runs he allowed are tied for the most he has given up since putting on the Olde English D. Going by Bill James' Game Score, it was Sanchez's worst outing since a 2 2/3 inning start against the Texas Rangers in May of 2013. It was also the second time he has walked more hitters than he struck out in 2014, something he had only done twice in a Tigers uniform prior to this season. His 3.91 xFIP and 3.97 SIERA are a bit alarming, especially considering that Sanchez currently owns his lowest strikeout-to-walk ratio since 2010.
Hitter to fear: Raul Ibañez (.276/.382/.483 in 34 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Salvador Perez (.000/.143/.000 in 14 plate appearances)
To say that Anibal Sanchez has dominated the Royals in his career is an understatement. He has made six starts against the Royals since joining the Tigers and has yet to allow more than a single run in any outing. That said, some Royals hitters have had success against him. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon are both hitting over .300, while Raul Ibañez's .865 OPS leads the team. Four Royals regulars -- Omar Infante, Eric Hosmer, Jarrod Dyson, and Salvador Perez -- own an OPS of .325 or lower.
As fun as last night's romp was, it won't mean a thing if the Tigers drop the next three games. Duffy is more talented than some of the advanced numbers suggest. He has already gone toe-to-toe with Sanchez once this year, and has decent career numbers against the Tigers despite a 1-5 record. The most telling number about Duffy's abilities may be .206, his opposing batting average. Even right-handed batters are only hitting .222 against him. The Tigers will get their chances tonight, but capitalizing on them will be the key to picking up a fourth straight win.
[Insert your prediction here]