Detroit Tigers (57–43) at Los Angeles Angels (61–41)
Time/Place: 9:05 p.m., Anaheim Stadium
SB Nation blog: Halo Heaven
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (9–8, 4.84 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Shoemaker (7-3, 4.54 ERA)
Matt Shoemaker was pitching for Eastern Michigan in 2006, when Justin Verlander was pitching for the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. The Angels will send the 27-year-old rookie right-hander, from Trenton, Michigan, to the mound on Friday against the Tigers' former MVP and Cy Young winner. Shoemaker has split time this season between Triple-A Salt Lake, the Angels' bullpen, and the Halo's rotation. He has managed to post a won-loss record of 7-3.
Shoemaker's strength is his ability to throw strikes. He has just 15 walks for the season, but his weakness is that he has given up 11 home runs. His splits show that left-handers have hit .293, while right-handers have batted .246 against the Angels' rookie, although the home runs against him have been split proportionally.
Shoemaker was born in Wyandotte, Michigan, and went to Trenton High School and then Eastern Michigan University. He was not drafted out of college, so he played summer ball in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League, The Angels signed him as an amateur free agent in 2008. In 2011, he was named Texas League Pitcher of the Year and Angels Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Shoemaker was invited to spring training with the Angels in 2012, with an opportunity to compete for the open fifth starter role for the Angels
Shoemaker played for the United States national baseball team in the 2011 Baseball World Cup and the Pan American Games. He made his major league debut in September of 2013, pitching five innings allowing just two hits against Seattle. He is battling to keep his spot in the Angels rotation, but has struggled recently, allowing 14 runs and an ERA of 7.45 over his last four starts.
Justin Verlander has been a mere shadow of his former MVP self this season. His K/9 rate has dropped from 8.95 in 2013 to 6.7 this season. His BB rate has edged up and his ERA has inflated by 1.4 runs per nine innings.
Verlander still ranks 22nd among qualified starters in the American League in fWAR, partly due to the fact that he is still a work horse. He has 17 decisions in 21 starts and is among the top 10 pitchers in innings pitched, ranking second in the category of bullpen avoidance, which has been a big key for any Tigers starter this season.
Hitter to fear: Albert Pujols is 5 for 8 against Verlander, with four walks and a slash line of .625/.750/.875/1.625, that includes a pair of doubles.
Hitter to fail: Howie Kendrick is batting .238 against Verlander (5 for 21) in his career.
Verlander has a career 4-5 record against the Angels, with an ERA of 4.04. In Anaheim, he is 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA. If it's any consolation, his nemesis, Jered Weaver, who will not face the Tigers in this series, has also fallen on harder times. Ever since losing his cool in a game won by the Tigers in Anaheim, and losing what was once a close race for the Cy Young award to Verlander, Weaver has been very average.
The Tigers should be able to get to Shoemaker for a dinger or two, while Verlander should be dialed in against a team that has given him trouble over his career. The only current Angel to homer against him is Mike Trout, who is one for three.
Angels' manager, Mike Scoscia, will be forced to go to his bullpen early and often, while Verlander avoids the soft underbelly of the Tigers' relief corps, giving the Tigers a victory to take the season series.