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Game 98 Preview: Tigers at Diamondbacks

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Can the Tigers rebound from last night's bullpen meltdown to take the series?

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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers (55-42) at Arizona Diamondbacks (44-57)

Time/Place: 3:40 p.m., Chase Field

SB Nation blog: AZ Snake Pit

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-4, 3.22 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Cahill (1-6, 5.63 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Sanchez 17 100.2 6.88 2.32 0.27 1.04 2.87 3.87 2.6
Cahill 5 46.1 9.13 5.24 0.97 1.68 4.33 4.05 0.0

Trevor Cahill failed to log at least 175 innings for the first time in his big league career in 2013, totaling just 146 2/3 frames after spending a month on the disabled list. Other than the hip contusion he suffered from a batted ball last July, Cahill was his usual self: reliable, efficient, and no better than league average. This season, Cahill was quickly yanked from the rotation after allowing 19 runs (18 earned) in his first four starts. Manager Kirk Gibson moved him into a mop-up and long relief role after that, where he allowed a 3.04 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. He held opposing batters to a .303 wOBA and struck out over a batter per inning, but could not keep his walk rate under control. So the Diamondbacks designated him for assignment.

Cahill didn't really "find himself" in the minors, walking 20 batters in 30 1/3 innings. He did toss a pair of scoreless outings and allow a 3.49 ERA in six Triple-A starts, though. His first start back in the majors came last Friday, when he gave up three runs on four hits in five innings against the Chicago Cubs. He only walked two in that start, and threw just 67 pitches. As for how he looked -- because stat lines can be misleading -- AZ Snakepit gives us a giant "meh."

So how did Tee Cahill do in his first game back with the Diamondbacks? Okay...ish? 5 innings pitched isn't great, but he wasn't a total tire fire. 3 runs during the same time frame isn't so hot, but it was manageable. Cahill still looks like a big baby.

Anibal Sanchez's previous start -- a six inning, four run outing -- kicked off the latest spell of bullpen panic in Detroit. After dominating for six shutout innings, Sanchez faltered in the seventh, as he has been wont to do in 2014. Opposing batters have a .745 OPS against him in the seventh inning this season and a .770 OPS the third time through the batting order. Sanchez exited the game after allowing two runs with a pair of runners still on base, both of him scored when Ian Krol and Al Alburquerque gave up a double and a pair of home runs, respectively.

Regardless of the outcome, Sanchez's dominance through the first six innings is encouraging. He struck out seven and walked one. He induced 13 whiffs on just 93 pitches, seven of which came on his changeup. He only threw 13 of 24 first pitch strikes -- and was 3 for 4 in the seventh -- and only got to a three-ball count three times prior to the seventh inning.

Hitter to fear: Martin Prado (.419/.438/.516 in 32 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Paul Goldschmidt (.000/.333/.000 in 3 plate appearances)

Sanchez has made six starts against the Diamondbacks in his career, allowing a 3.51 ERA in 41 innings. He has struck out over a batter per inning and has an excellent 1.05 WHIP. However, the three Diamondbacks with over 10 career plate appearances against Sanchez have all fared well. Martin Prado is 13-for-31 with a home run, while Gerardo Parra is 5-for-11 with a double. Miguel Montero is just 3-for-14, but he has a double and a homer to his credit for a .500 slugging average.

Outlook

Like Chase Anderson last night, Cahill primarily throws a fastball, curveball, and changeup with similar velocity profiles. There aren't any stats for how teams fare when facing a pitcher that looks similar to the other, and it's anyone's guess as to whether splitting pitchers up -- say, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer -- to give opponents "a different look" is actually effective. Regardless, the Tigers need to be patient this afternoon. Cahill has had serious command issues this year, including the lowest first-pitch strike percentage since his rookie season.

Prediction

The Tigers jump out to an early lead and coast to a series victory.

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