Colorado Rockies (44-65) at Detroit Tigers (59-47)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Purple Row
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tyler Matzek (2-5, 4.39 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (12-5, 3.24 ERA)
Tyler Matzek was the Rockies' first round draft pick in 2009, and spent four and a half seasons in the minor leagues before getting called up to the big league club this year. His minor league numbers aren't all that impressive, though he played in some very hitter-friendly environments. Still, Matzek's main issue was command. He walked six batters per nine innings in 106 minor league starts. This includes a 10 start stint at High-A Modesto where he walked a whopping 12.5 (!) batters per nine. He improved somewhat in the high minors, but still gave up 107 walks in 209 innings across Double and Triple A ball.
Then, somehow, Matzek's command issues all but disappeared when he hit the major leagues. He has walked four batters in a pair of his 10 starts, but is walking just 7.6 percent of batters he has faced overall. The other side of that coin is that Matzek is striking out just 14.7 percent of batters, a nearly identical rate to Rick Porcello. This means that Matzek has relied heavily on opposing hitters making contact and... well, the numbers are pretty unremarkable. His line drive rate (21.3 percent) and BABIP (.311) are fairly average, and a low home run rate is cancelled out by opposing batters hitting .315/.400/.463 with runners in scoring position.
Rick Porcello was dynamite in his last start, holding the Los Angeles Angels to one unearned run on five hits in seven innings. He struck out six, tying a season high. It was easily his most impressive outing since his 25 inning scoreless streak was snapped prior to the All-Star break, and the ninth time he has held the opposition to one run or fewer this season. If we lower our standards a bit, Porcello has held opponents to two runs or fewer in 12 of his 20 starts in 2014. Only Max Scherzer has done this more often for the Tigers this year (unless you count Robbie Ray accomplishing the feat twice in his three starts).
Hitter to fear: Justin Morneau (.265/.306/.529 in 36 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Drew Stubbs (.143/.143/.143 in 7 plate appearances)
Unlike Justin Verlander yesterday, a lot of Rick Porcello's success against Justin Morneau came early on in Porcello's career when Morneau was a force in the middle of the Minnesota Twins' lineup. Morneau was just 4 for 23 against Porcello in the young right-hander's first four big league seasons, but went 5 for 11 with a double and a home run last season. Drew Stubbs' poor numbers against Porcello are all from 2013, when Stubbs played for the Indians. His teammates didn't fare much better, though. Porcello held the Tribe to a .552 OPS in four starts last year.
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While he is still prone to the occasional implosion, Porcello has proven himself to be one of the more consistent pitchers in the Tigers' rotation. Expanding on the stat listed above, Porcello has held opponents to two runs or fewer in 19 of his last 34 starts dating back to July 1st, 2013. However, there are a couple of things working against him tonight. Porcello hasn't been quite as good at home, with a 3.98 ERA and 4.03 FIP in eight starts this year. Additionally, the Rockies are hitting a solid .297/.347/.458 against ground ball pitchers, though these figures could be skewed by their stellar numbers at home. The offense may need to pick up the slack against the Rockies' rookie left-hander in order to walk away with a W tonight.
The Tigers improve to 4-1 on BYB meet-up days with another low-stress victory.
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