Detroit Tigers (68-59) at Minnesota Twins (58-70)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (10-11, 4.76 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor May (0-2, 9.00 ERA)
Like Yohan Pino earlier today, Trevor May is also a rookie right-handed pitcher. Unlike Pino, he is young, has potential, and can light up the radar gun. May was one of the pitchers that the Twins received from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Ben Revere in 2012. He was great in Triple-A to start the year, putting up a 2.84 ERA and 3.17 FIP in 98 1/3 innings. His walk rate -- a constant struggle throughout his time in the minors -- was down to a reasonable level, at 3.57 free passes per nine innings. That has not been the case in the majors, however. May has 13 walks in just nine big league innings, resulting in a 9.00 ERA and 6.80 FIP.
Despite the command issues, there is a reason that the Twins like this kid. Twinkie Town gave some more insight before his first start on August 9th.
In spite of his ability to rack up strikeouts and an arm and body that is made for durability, May's upside is probably as a mid-rotation starter. His low to mid-90s fastball is a plus pitch, but the change has come on strong this season and has gained some fans among scouts. The curve and slider are average offerings according to most, but will be better if May can have a feel for them consistently.
If you want to put a positive spin on Justin Verlander's minor shoulder setback, it may have given his legs some extra rest as well. Verlander's struggles and their possible link to his offseason surgery have been well documented here this season, so it will be interesting to see if he is any sharper down the stretch. As for tonight? The matchup is certainly in his favor. Verlander's career numbers against the Twins are pretty good, but he has been nearly untouchable at Target Field. He is 4-0 with a 1.89 ERA and 4.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six career starts at the Twins' new home ballpark.
Hitter to fear: Joe Mauer (.371/.473/.581 in 74 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Trevor Plouffe (.143/.143/.179 in 28 plate appearances)
Verlander pitched against the Twins on May 9th, but took the loss when he was out-dueled by Phil Hughes. The start was one of Verlander's better outings of the season, as he held the Twins to two runs in seven innings of work. However, the current Twins roster has had a fair amount of success against him in the past. While not all of their numbers were accumulated while wearing Minnesota uniforms, the nine Twins that have faced Verlander before have combined to hit .292/.354/.433 with five home runs in 189 plate appearances. However, three of those home runs and nearly half of those 50 hits are from Joe Mauer.
Despite getting smacked around in the first two games of this series, the Tigers are still in a good position to split the four game series. Tonight, they have one of their best starters pitching in a venue he has dominated at against a rookie who has shown zero semblance of command since arriving from the minor leagues. Does it sound too good to be true? It might be, but don't rag on the offense just yet. Lost amid the pitching debacle is the fact that the Tigers have scored 10 runs on 25 hits already in this series. Now that they are finally starting someone who belongs in the major leagues -- apologies, Robbie and Buck -- the odds should be in their favor.
Verlander guts out a win and the Tigers split the doubleheader.
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