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Game 102 Preview: Tigers at Angels

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Rick Porcello goes for a league-leading 13th victory in a rematch against the Angels' Santiago, in the Tigers' final game on the west coast this season.

Leon Halip

Detroit Tigers (57–44) at Los Angeles Angels (62–41)

Time/Place: 3:35 p.m., Anaheim Stadium

SB Nation blog: Halo Heaven

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (12–5, 3.42 ERA) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (2–7, 4.02 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Porcello 19 126.1 5.13 1.99 0.85 1.16 3.93 4.13 1.8
Santiago
13 71.2 8.59 1.52 1.00 1.28 4.05 4.10 0.7

Hector Santiago should be familiar to Tiger fans and players from his seasons with the Chicago White Sox. The 26-year-old left-hander spent three seasons with Chicago and was part of the three-player trade that sent Mark Trumbo to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Adam Eaton to Chicago. Santiago started the season at the back end of the Angels' rotation, starting out 0–6 with a 5.19 ERA. He was victimized by a lack of run support, six unearned runs, and a shaky bullpen, but also a high BB rate, which is murder on a fly ball pitcher. He was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake, and Matt Shoemaker was given his job in the rotation.

Santiago was recalled in June, when Tyler Skaggs was placed on the disabled list, then moved to the bullpen when Skaggs was recalled in July, and brought back into the rotation when CJ Wilson was placed on the disabled list. He could be on borrowed time, so he will have to make the most of his opportunities. Since being recalled, Santiago has posted a 3.10 ERA over six starts and two relief appearances.

Santiago's splits are nothing out of the ordinary for a left-hander, although seven of the eight home runs he has given up have been hit by right-handed batters. He is capable of pitching effectively against both right and left-handed hitting. His repertoire, as shown by pitch f/x indicates a full repertoire of six pitches. In 2014, he has relied primarily on his four seam fastball (92mph), a circle change up (84mph). curve ball (77mph), and cutter (86mph). He also throws an occasional sinker (91mph) and screwball (77mph), according to Brooks Baseball.

Rick Porcello has had the breakout season that has been anticipated since his rookie season in 2009. After seeing a sharp increase in his K-rate in 2013, Porcello still struggled against left-handed hitters, allowing a .300 plus batting average. That has not been a problem this season, and the results have shown up in both his ERA and his won-loss totals. His ERA and WHIP are easily the best of his career, and he already has accumulated a higher rWAR than in any full season thus far.

Porcello's overall numbers put him third or fourth in the Tigers' rotation, but he could be a No. 2 in most rotations around the league. He is tied with Max Scherzer and the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka for the league lead in victories with 12, but ranks 26th in FIP  and 23rd in fWAR- in a virtual tie with Justin Verlander. He has one of the lowest K/9 rates among qualified starters in the American League, and one of the best BB/9 rates. He depends on getting ground ball outs, and keeping his sinker from drifting out over the plate.

Hitter to fear: Albert Pujols is hitting .400/.400/.600/1.000, (4 for 10) with a pair of doubles against Porcello.

Hitter to fail: Erick Aybar is just 4 for 21, with a line of .190/.292/.238/.530 against Porcello.

Outlook

The Angels, despite a better record than Detroit, are sitting in a wild card playoff spot at the moment. That means that they would host the Seattle Mariners, and a likely date with "King" Felix Hernandez, or the Kansas City Royals and James Shields, in a one game do-or-die playoff. Should circumstances pit the two Angels and Tigers against each other in the post season, the winner of the season series could determine home field advantage. The Tigers have not taken the season series against the Angels since 2010. Sunday's winner will take the season series, 4 games to 3.

Porcello is 4–4 with a 7.34 ERA in ten career starts against the Angels. Santiago is 0–3 with a 2.08 ERA for his career vs Detroit, with 25 walks and 34 strikeouts in 34 innings. Josh Hamilton is a sizzling 6 for 13 against Porcello, with two home runs, eight RBI, and line of .462/.533/.923/1.456. However, he was removed from Friday's game after looking shaky on a ball hit into the gap. Mike Trout hit a grand slam in the nine-run first inning last year in Anaheim that has to go down as the worst inning of Porcello's career. Trout is hitting .333 with a 1.012 OPS against Porcello.

Porcello pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Angels in April, allowing five hits, no walks, and four strikeouts in a 2–1 Tigers victory in Detroit. The Halos' lone run came in the first inning on a single, sacrifice bunt, and single. Santiago was the hard luck loser, allowing no earned runs, two hits, and seven walks in 5 2/3 innings of work. The Tigers scored a pair of unearned runs resulting from throwing errors by Angels' catcher, Hank Conger.

Prediction

Porcello continues his dominance over the Angels' lineup, while the Tigers get to Santiago and Jason Grilli. A seemingly innocuous single digit flashed from the crowd near the on deck circle in the first inning leaves Mike Trout looking like a fish out of water, to seal the Tigers victory.