Detroit Tigers (67-56) at Tampa Bay Rays (61-64)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Tropicana Field
SB Nation blog: DRaysBay
Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (13-8, 3.28 ERA) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (9-9, 3.82 ERA)
Jake Odorizzi was one of the players that the Rays acquired when they shipped James Shields off to Kansas City. It was not the first time that Odorizzi had been part of a blockbuster deal, though. He was also a part of the trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers -- a trade that also netted the Royals current contributors Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar.
Odorizzi made a handful of spot starts for the Rays in 2013, and has seamlessly transitioned to full-time duty in 2014. His 9-9 record and 3.82 ERA are a bit deceiving, as he has given up three runs or fewer in 18 of his 24 starts this year. This includes 11 of his last 12, a stretch where he has held opponents to a 2.63 ERA and .601 OPS in 72 innings. He has struck out seven or more hitters in six of those 12 starts while cutting his walk rate to 7.2 percent.
To me, the strikeouts are the most surprising facet of Odorizzi's profile. His fastball averages 91-92 miles per hour with a maximum speed of 93.6 this year, according to Fangraphs. However, it generates a boatload of whiffs, a big reason why opposing hitters are swinging and missing at 10 percent of the strikes he throws in 2014. Odorizzi primarily works with a fastball-splitter combo, but mixes in a slider against right-handed hitters and the occasional first-pitch curveball to lefties. While his platoon splits are essentially identical, he is striking out nearly 30 percent of the left-handed hitters he faces and has a 4.14 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Rick Porcello turned in his first stinker in over a month in his last start, allowing six runs (five earned) on 10 hits against the Seattle Mariners. While his poor outing may not have mattered given the way James Paxton was mowing down the Tigers' lineup, it was encouraging that Porcello was able to battle his way through six innings in order to save the bullpen (and our eyes) from more of their antics. The last bad start Porcello had came against these same Rays in a start against now-teammate David Price on July 6th. In between then? Five starts and a relief appearances with a 1.89 ERA. The Tigers were just 2-3 in his five starts despite him allowing a total of eight runs.
Hitter to fear: Desmond Jennings (.357/.357/.643 in 14 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Evan Longoria (.182/.308/.182 in 13 plate appearances)
Nearly everyone's numbers improved against Porcello on that July 6th matchup, as the Rays scored seven runs on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Desmond Jennings led the charge, hitting a double and a home run. He now has five hits in 14 at-bats against Porcello. New Tiger killer James Loney also had a pair of hits and is 4 for 10 overall. Even Evan Longoria, who has struggled in 11 at-bats against Porcello, was able to tally a hit. Rays newcomers Logan Forsythe and Kevin Kiermaier did not get the memo, though. They both went 0 for 3.
Odorizzi has put up some pretty significant home/road splits in 2014, but they are almost entirely generated by Tropicana Field's pitcher-friendly confines. The 24 year old right-hander has only allowed four home runs at home this season, and his .287 home BABIP is over 50 points lower than the .340 BABIP he sports on the road. His other numbers -- the strikeout-to-walk ratio, in particular -- are the same no matter what stadium he pitches in. Odorizzi's command issues against right-handed hitters may be an issue this evening, especially if the Tigers demonstrate the same patience that led to a season-high 10 walks last night.
The Tigers win their second in a row and fifth of their last seven.
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