Detroit Tigers (54-41) at Arizona Diamondbacks (43-56)
Time/Place: 9:40 p.m., Chase Field
SB Nation blog: AZ Snakepit
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (8-8, 4.88 ERA) vs. LHP Vidal Nuno (2-6, 5.10 ERA)
While he has never faced the Tigers, Vidal Nuno's name may be familiar to those keeping tabs on the rest of the American League. He was traded to the Diamondbacks by the New York Yankees earlier this month in exchange for righty Brandon McCarthy. Regardless of uniform, Nuno has struggled with the home run ball this season. He has four outings with multiple homers allowed this season, and Chase Field has yielded the fourth-highest slugging average in baseball. Of the 16 homers he has allowed this year, 14 have been served up to right-handed hitters. Not surprisingly, righties have a stellar .841 OPS against him while lefties are hitting just .231/.311/.359.
Nuno does not have a standout pitch, instead using a four pitch mix in attempt to keep hitters off balance. He has thrown each of his pitches -- fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup -- at least 10 percent of the time in 2014, with the changeup being featured exclusively against righties. Nuno's fastball sits at the 89-90 mile per hour range but has topped out at 92 miles per hour this season. He also uses his slider heavily despite it being battered by right-handed hitting. Righties are slugging .549 off the slider, in part because they are always making contact. None of Nuno's pitches have garnered a whiff rate above 10 percent this season.
MLive commenters will be incensed to know that Justin Verlander spent his All-Star break with a certain supermodel of international fame. Frankly, I'm happy he got the time off. Tonight will mark eight days between starts for Verlander, a necessary break after the Kansas City Royals tagged him for four runs in the seventh inning of his last outing. The outing followed the same theme that we have seen all year long: Verlander looks fine early on, then gets rocked as his pitch count climbs. Results aside, he has been better lately. He has 27 strikeouts to just five walks in his last five starts, inching ever so slowly back towards the strikeout-per-inning barrier -- though, for what it's worth, Verlander has only struck out a batter per inning in two of his 10 big league seasons. He also tallied nine whiffs on 97 pitches in his last outing.
Hitter to fear: Aaron Hill (.308/.286/.462 in 14 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Mark Trumbo (.167/.167/.167 in 6 plate appearances)
It goes without saying that letting Paul Goldschmidt beat you is The Thing to Avoid in this series, but we're going to reiterate it anyway. The 2013 NL MVP runner-up is hitting ..314/.408/.570 with 18 home runs and a league-leading 37 doubles. Surrounding Goldschmidt are a trio of underperforming players in Aaron Hill, Martin Prado, and Mark Trumbo. Hill is the only Diamondbacks hitter with more than six career plate appearances against Verlander. He is 4-for-13 with a pair of doubles. He has struggled recently, though, with a .551 OPS in July. Prado is hitting .314 in July, but has demonstrated very little power in 2014. Trumbo recently came off the disabled list and has yet to find his groove. He is just 1-for-6 in his career against Verlander.
The Narrative suggests that the Tigers are easily flummoxed by soft-tossing left-handed pitchers, but the numbers suggest otherwise. The Tigers have a .792 OPS against lefties this season, second-best in all of baseball. Meanwhile, Nuno has struggled against right-handed hitters. Assuming Alex Avila starts, the Tigers will have eight righties in the lineup tonight, making for a tough road for the 26 year old Californian. The Diamondbacks have a middle-of-the-road offense that is surprisingly disciplined, but they have the second-lowest walk rate in baseball. If Verlander can keep his command in check as he has done lately, the Tigers should be in good shape.
The Tigers continue their road winning ways despite some late inning bullpen shenanigans.
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