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Game 118 Preview: Pirates at Tigers

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Buck Farmer will make his MLB debut tonight in front of the home crowd as the Tigers return from a brutal nine game road trip.

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Thearon W. Henderson

Pittsburgh Pirates (64-55) at Detroit Tigers (63-54)

Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Bucs Dugout

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Vance Worley (5-1, 2.30 ERA) vs. RHP Buck Farmer (11-5, 2.65 ERA in the minor leagues)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Worley 9 62.2 5.60 1.44 0.57 1.07 3.29 3.82 0.9
Farmer (minors) 20 115.2 9.88 2.18 0.54 1.14 2.59 - -

It seems like forever ago, but Vance Worley was the Minnesota Twins' Opening Day starter in 2013. Worley tossed a Bare Minimum Quality Start (can we make this a thing?) against these same Tigers, allowing three runs on eight hits in six innings. Worley faced the Tigers once at Comerica Park later that month, allowing six runs on ten hits in just 4 2/3 innings. The Tigers won both games that Worley started against them, a trend that carried over elsewhere. Worley was 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA and 5.53 FIP in 48 2/3 innings, earning him a demotion to Triple A. He finished out the season with the Twins' affiliate, allowing a 3.88 ERA and 3.64 FIP in 58 innings.

Worley came to Spring Training this year looking to push for a rotation spot with the Twins, but his performance was nowhere near up to snuff. He allowed a whopping 22 hits and 16 runs in just 10 innings, and was outrighted to the minors. Before he could get there, the Pirates swooped in to buy him, though they still sent him to the minors. Things didn't look too pretty for him on the surface -- a 3-2 record and 4.30 ERA in the International League is less than impressive -- but his peripherals were astounding. Worley walked just four batters in 46 innings, giving him a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 10.75. He also kept the ball in the park, allowing three home runs in seven starts.

Worley got the call to the big leagues in mid-June and rewarded the Pirates' patience with seven shutout innings in his 2014 debut. He has been on fire ever since, allowing a 2.30 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts). The seven shutout innings against the Miami Marlins were impressive, but his crown jewel this season was a four hit shutout against the San Francisco Giants on July 28th. His strikeout rate has dipped considerably from what he did in Triple-A to start the year, but he has kept his walk rate down and is not running into the home run issues that plagued him in 2013. A .272 BABIP and 78.9 percent strand rate indicate that he may be in for a bit of regression, especially considering his 3.29 FIP and 3.66 xFIP are well above his sparkling ERA.

We will have more on Buck Farmer elsewhere this morning, but Jordan tweeted the basic need-to-knows when Farmer's start was announced the other day.

Unfortunately for Farmer, he's running into a bit of a buzzsaw tonight. The Pirates are one of the best teams in the majors against right-handed pitching. Their .330 wOBA and 111 wRC+ against righties both lead the National League while their .745 OPS is second only to the Colorado Rockies. Both Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez do their best work against right-handed pitching, and Farmer is bound to see at least five lefties in tonight's lineup. He didn't fare poorly against them in the minor leagues, allowing a .666 OPS this year. His 10.7 percent walk rate against lefties may be a concern, though.

Tigers hitter to fear: Torii Hunter (.500/.500/.833 in 6 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Miguel Cabrera (.167/.167/.667 in 6 plate appearances)

The Tigers beat up Worley in 2013, scoring nine runs on 18 hits in just 10 2/3 innings. While that was a very different lineup that Worley had to navigate -- only six players on the roster have faced him before -- the mainstays did the majority of the damage. Alex Avila and Miguel Cabrera both homered off Worley, while Torii Hunter has a pair of doubles to his name.

Outlook

The Tigers have struggled at home this season, but Comerica Park will likely be a friendly sight for the club after a brutal 2-7 road trip. The team needs a win badly, and they don't exactly have the edge on paper with Worley throwing as well as he has in 2014. That said, the Tigers have pounded much better pitchers at home in recent seasons, and Worley was far from perfect the last time he toed the rubber in Detroit.

Also...

Prediction

The offense awakens and the losing streak ends tonight.

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