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Game 92 Preview: Indians at Tigers

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The Tigers look to add on to their American League Central lead in the first of four against the Indians.

Leon Halip

Detroit Tigers (53–38) at Cleveland Indians (47–47)

Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (6–3, 3.04 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (3–4, 3.84 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Sanchez 16 94⅔
6.65 2.38 0.29 1.04 2.96 3.98 2.4
Bauer 12 72⅔ 8.67
3.34 1.11
1.42 3.98 3.86
0.8

Trevor Bauer already has two starts against the Tigers under his belt this year. In the first meeting he out-dueled Justin Verlander (before he was broken) and pitched six relatively strong innings. He gave up a pair of homers to Torii Hunter and Alex Avila, but managed to throw strikes two-thirds of the time. In the second rendezvous, he again squared off against Verlander (interestingly enough, after he was broken), this time coming up short with a loss. He gave up home runs to Rajai Davis, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler in that contest.

Bauer had an ineffective month of June, but showed signs of righting the ship before the All-Star break. In his last three starts he had an ERA of 2.33 and the Indians won all three. It's worth noting that he did not give up a home run in those three games.

Is there a more undervalued pitcher in the American League than Anibal Sanchez? Often overlooked because of the rest of the rotation, Sanchez comes into the game with a 3.04 ERA, a FIP of 2.96 and a value of 2.4 WAR (per Fangraphs). His 0.29 HR/9 (second in all of baseball) makes his xFIP look worse than it is. Simply put, Sanchez has not let the ball leave the yard this year. Cleveland is fifth in the league in team home runs, so neutralizing the likes of Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana will be key.

Sanchez faced the Indians on one other occasion this year, taking the loss in only five innings of work. His 105 pitches thrown through those five innings is uncharacteristic, but eight strikeouts and four walks will do that to you. His 1.04 WHIP in 2014 shows that that is an anomaly.

Hitter to fear: Yan Gomes (.429/.500/1.143 in eight plate appearances) 
Hitter to fail: Nick Swisher (.091/.333/.091 in 18 plate appearances)

Sanchez took Max Scherzer's turn in the rotation due to Scherzer's All-Star game appearance. Scherzer will start Saturday night instead, essentially swapping their rotational position.

Outlook

Anibal Sanchez has been given the task of keeping the Tigers' surging momentum going. Facing a double-header on Saturday, the first of which will be the first career start for Drew VerHagen, winning the first game is important. Detroit entered the All-Star break leading the Royals by 6½ games in the American League Central. A win here would be a bold statement. Cleveland has a tendency to make a late push in the standings, and a split in this series would be the minimal expectation.

The Tigers are 4–4 against the Indians this year, edging them slightly in runs scored 46–42.

Prediction

Victor Martinez makes up for time lost and has a huge game against the home run prone Bauer.