Detroit Tigers (68-57) at Minnesota Twins (56-70)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Robbie Ray (1-3, 5.33 ERA) vs. LHP Tommy Milone (6-4, 3.99 ERA)
If Billy Beane made any of his trade deadline deals with the Tigers in mind, it may have been the one that sent Tommy Milone to Minnesota. While many questioned Beane's decision to send the 27 year old left-hander with three-plus years of club control remaining to the Twins in exchange for a fourth outfielder -- myself included -- it is clear that Beane intended to use Milone as a mole to derail the Tigers' playoff run before it even gets started. Kind of like in The Terminator, except without time travel or Arnold Schwarzenegger. And with accents. It's like The Terminator meets Fargo, but at a baseball game.
You see, this evil plot has only been constructed because Milone dominated the Tigers as a member of the A's. In five starts, Milone has held the Tigers to a 2.15 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. The A's went 4-1 against the Tigers with Milone on the mound, though the lone loss came in Game 2 of the 2012 ALDS. Milone's record is still a spotless 3-0, however. To make matters worse, Milone also contributed to the Tigers' downfall by getting shellacked by the Kansas City Royals in his last start. He allowed seven runs (six earned) in just 1 1/3 innings. It was an impressive showing of efficiency by the Royals, as they plated seven of the eight baserunners that Milone allowed in the game.
Speaking of allowing baserunners, Robbie Ray was not very good in his last start. The Seattle Mariners tagged him for three runs in his first three innings of work, the last coming on a wild pitch by Ray himself. Ray ended up allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits in five innings. He walked two and only struck out one batter. While it is far too early to judge Ray's full potential on a handful of big league starts in his rookie year, it was a swift reminder that the Tigers need their starters to get (and stay) healthy down the stretch.
Hitter to fear: Eduardo Escobar (.500/.500/1.000 in 2 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Trevor Plouffe (.000/.000/.000 in 3 plate appearances)
Tonight is the first time that Ray will be facing a major league lineup for the second time. He threw six shutout innings against the Twins back on May 11th, but received a no-decision thanks to a bullpen meltdown (imagine that). Ray scattered four hits and a walk in the outing, all to different Twins hitters. Eduardo Escobar's double would have plated a run had Aaron Hicks -- who has since been demoted to the minors -- not been caught stealing earlier in the inning.
Though Milone has excellent numbers against the Tigers overall, there may be a Kyle Reese or two in their lineup. Miguel Cabrera is hitting .385/.467/.615 off Milone in 15 plate appearances while Torii Hunter is 4 for 10 with a home run. J.D. Martinez has also homered off Milone before, but that came back in 2013 when the two were AL West opponents.
Though they lost in pitiful fashion yesterday, the Tigers' second series victory in just over a week (I'm counting the two-gamer with Pittsburgh and you can't stop me!) has stopped the bleeding for a Tigers team that was starting to lose some significant ground on the red-hot Royals. Now, they have a chance to make up ground while playing the cellar dweller of the AL Central. Getting a victory tonight would be big, as Milone is the most experienced starter (and the only lefty) the Tigers will see this weekend.
Ray rebounds and the Tigers pull out a squeaker in the series opener.
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