Detroit Tigers (61-48) at New York Yankees (58-53)
Time/Place: 7:05 p.m., Yankee Stadium
SB Nation blog: Pinstripe Alley
Pitching Matchup: LHP David Price (11-8, 3.11 ERA) vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda (7-7, 3.98 ERA)
Hiroki Kuroda hasn't quite been his usual self in 2014, but if you Porcello out one bad outing -- against the Los Angeles Angels, of course -- then his numbers look a smidge better. The outing itself is nowhere near as bad as Death By Papercuts Part XVIII, but it was the only time Kuroda has allowed more than four runs in a start this season. His 3.92 FIP is just a little higher than his 3.65 career mark, and that can be attributed to a slightly elevated home run rate. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is nearly identical to last season's mark, and he is actually allowing line drives at a lower rate than in 2013. His ground ball rate has gone up by a tick, and his .287 BABIP is right around his career average.
So what's the difference between 2013 Kuroda and the mortal we're seeing in 2014? He is stranding just 68.5 percent of runners this year, down from 75.8 percent a season ago and 77.7 percent in 2012. He is holding opposing batters to a lower OPS with runners in scoring position (.637) than with the bases empty (.709), but that figure is still much higher than the .483 OPS opponents had with runners in scoring position in 2013. Part of this could be due to an inability to get swings and misses in big spots. Opponents are striking out just 13.7 percent of the time with runners in scoring position in 2014, down from 18.7 percent last year.
Is it his pitches? Kuroda's overall whiff rate is just 0.4 percent lower than in 2013, but he has seen a drop-off in whiff rate from both his splitter and his slider, his two main wipeout pitches. The splitter, in particular, is Kuroda's go-to pitch. Opposing batters see it 40 percent of the time with two strikes in the count, and just about as often whenever Kuroda is ahead. He uses the slider much more against right-handed batters to great effect. Righties are hitting just .219 against the slider this year to go along with a .158 average against the splitter.
David Price's season started off similarly to Kuroda's, as the lefty allowed a 4.27 ERA though the end of May. His peripherals were much better, though. Price's 3.32 FIP and 2.85 xFIP through May suggested that better days were ahead. That might have been an understatement. Through his last 11 starts, Price has allowed a 1.80 ERA and a 2.57 FIP in 86 1/3 innings. He has logged at least seven innings in every start, with at least nine strikeouts in eight of the 11 outings.
Hitter to fear: Derek Jeter (.305/.388/.458 in 67 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Stephen Drew (.077/.143/.231 in 14 plate appearances)
Price has seen plenty of the Yankees in his career, allowing a 3.66 ERA in 23 starts. He has held them to a .681 OPS as a club, though that figure climbs to .713 in 12 starts at the new Yankee Stadium. Price has faced them twice in the Bronx this year, holding them to three runs (two earned) in 14 innings of work. The Yankees tagged him for six runs on 10 hits in a start at Tropicana Field back in April, but 10 of the 16 hits collected by the club that day are no longer on the roster. Of those that are, Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury both have impressive career numbers against Price, while catcher Brian McCann has two home runs in eight at-bats.
Price shines in his debut and the Tigers even the series.
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