Seattle Mariners (65-55) at Detroit Tigers (65-54)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Lookout Landing
Pitching Matchup: LHP James Paxton (2-0, 2.38 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (13-7, 3.11 ERA)
James Paxton made a splash in a cup of coffee with the Mariners last September, striking out 10 in seven shutout innings in his final start of the season against the Kansas City Royals. Five days prior, he walked four batters in five innings against the Tigers, a game that the Mariners would lose 5-4. Mariners fans were cautiously optimistic that Paxton would be closer to the guy that dominated the Royals heading into this season. Instead, Paxton made a pair of starts in April before spending four months on the disabled list with a lat injury. His absence hasn't fazed the Mariners at all, however, as they have actively decided as a group to not give up any runs.
A fourth round draft pick out of the University of Kentucky in 2010, Paxton has the kind of arm you can dream on. His fastball has averaged 95.4 miles per hour during his brief big league career and he can reach back for 98. His changeup and curveball lack behind, and likely haven't improved much this year given he has spent most of it on the DL. Despite the time off, he has also begun throwing a cutter, and the results are promising. In an extremely small sample of 12 at-bats ending with the cutter, Paxton has allowed two hits and struck out three batters.
Rick Porcello got the short end of the stick in his last outing, taking the loss when he gave up a run in that marathon game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday. Considering he had pitched three days prior -- and thrown a season-high 110 pitches to boot -- it's hard to blame Porcello for not being as sharp as we have seen lately. His last start didn't go much better, though. He allowed just one run in seven innings while striking out five, but took the loss thanks to a listless effort from the Tigers' offense. Despite the loss, the outing was Porcello's fifth consecutive with at least seven innings pitched. He has a 1.75 ERA during this stretch with 29 strikeouts to five walks in 36 innings. Somehow, the Tigers are just 2-3 in those games.
Hitter to fear: Robinson Cano (.350/.435/.450 in 23 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Kendrys Morales (.211/.250/.263 in 20 plate appearances)
Porcello has put up solid numbers against the Mariners in his career, holding them to a 3.48 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in seven career starts. However, that may not matter in this series, as the Mariners currently scalding hot. They are coming off an 8-1 homestand and have scored 59 runs in just 12 games in the month of August. Robinson Cano has led the way, hitting .309/.413/.500 in the second half as he transforms himself into the American League's Joey Votto. As one might expect, Porcello has struggled in his career against a hitter of Cano's caliber.
Yes, I went there
If these Mariners seem familiar, it's because you've watched them before. No, maybe not the team itself, but this type of club. Like the 2006 Tigers, the Mariners are a young-but-talented group led by an awesome pitching staff. Like, really awesome. Their 2.95 team ERA is the second best figure in the American League since the beginning of the designated hitter era. Only two pitchers on the Tigers' active roster -- Al Alburquerque and Blaine Hardy -- have a lower ERA. This weekend, the onus is on the Tigers' offense to take advantage of any opportunities handed to them, because they will be few and far between.
Speaking of run-scoring opportunities, tonight will likely be the Tigers' best chance to get them. Paxton has been excellent about limiting baserunners in limited major league action during his career, but has dealt with command issues throughout his time in the minor leagues. Paxton ran into his walk issues at Comerica Park last season, and he simply doesn't have enough innings under his belt this year for us to know whether these are a thing of the past. On the other side, it's simply the irresistible force against the immovable object: can Rick Porcello stop the red-hot Mariners?
Porcello shines and the Tigers win their third game in a row.
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