Detroit Tigers (56–42) at Los Angeles Angels (60–40)
Time/Place: 10:05 p.m., Anaheim Stadium
SB Nation blog: Halo Heaven
Pitching Matchup: RHP Max Scherzer (11–3, 3.34 ERA) vs. RHP Garrett Richards (11–2, 2.47 ERA)
The Tigers arrive in Anaheim with the third-best record in Major League Baseball, sitting in the second playoff seed atop the American League's Central division. The Angels are the hottest team in the league over the past month, and have the second-best record in the game, but are currently in a wild card position, in second place in the Western division.
The pitching match-up in this game is one to watch. The Tigers will send reigning Cy Young champion, Max Scherzer, to the mound with an 11–3 record. The Angels have an All-Star of their own, in Garrett Richards, who is 11–2, having an even more impressive season thus far.
Richards made his first appearance in the All-Star game, currently ranking fourth in the American league in ERA and FIP, and sixth in fWAR among qualified starting pitchers. He also has the lowest home run ratio allowed in the league this season. Over his last three starts, he has allowed just two runs, with an ERA of 0.81 in 22 innings.
Scherzer is also on a roll, having allowed a total of seven earned runs over his last five starts. His ERA for the season is inflated from a 10-run game against the Kansas City Royals in June, but he has been solid in every outing since then.
The game also features two of the three top scoring offenses in the game, with the Angels having the top scoring offense and the Tigers third. The Tigers lead the league in batting average and team OPS, but the Angels are much better running the bases, despite Detroit's league leading stolen base numbers.
Hitter to fear: Chris Iannetta, the catcher being platooned by Mike Scoscia, is hitting .364/.385/.636/1.021 against Scherzer in 11 plate appearances.
Hitter to fail: Erick Aybar, the All-Star shortstop, is batting just .143/.143/.214/.357 (2 for 14) against Scherzer.
The Tigers have not fared well recently against the Angels, being swept in six games in 2013, and they haven't won a season series against them since 2010. The Tigers have won two of the three games this season, and have a winning record on the road, against right-handed pitchers, against the west division, and against teams that are at or above .500.
The Angels feature a high octane offense that pressures defenses on the bases, and they're seemingly always on base. They have 30 — that's THIRTY — come from behind wins this season, and are 22–8 in their last 30 games.
If there is a weakness in Richards' game, it is that he leads the league with 17 wild pitches. As much trouble as the Tigers have had with their bullpen, the Angels have been just as bad, or worse in the late innings. They have just acquired Jason Grilli and Huston Street to stop the bleeding.
It's hard to bet against Max, but this would be a time to consider it. I'll stick with the Tigers, calling a close game with late scoring when the bullpens take over.