Detroit Tigers (84-66) at Minnesota Twins (63-87)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (15-11, 3.23 ERA) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (5-11, 5.64 ERA)
To say Ricky Nolasco has been a disappointment in 2014 would be a major understatement. The 31 year old right-hander signed the richest free agent contract in Twins history last offseason, but has sputtered his way to a 5.64 ERA and 4.40 FIP in 140 1/3 innings. His strikeout rate -- while all over the place during his career -- hasn't been anything special. His home run troubles have returned after a few seasons in remission. He has nine outings with five or more runs allowed. His most productive month might have been the one he spent on the disabled list with elbow trouble.
I say "might" because Nolasco has been slightly better since returning from the disabled list. He has allowed a 4.91 ERA in his last six starts and a 4.13 ERA in his last four. He has logged 27 strikeouts in his last 36 2/3 innings, and is coming off a great start against the Cleveland Indians last Thursday. He hasn't been any more efficient lately -- just 72 of the 117 pitches he threw against the Tribe were strikes -- and opponents are still hitting .297/.346/.480 during this stretch. Nolasco's ratio of ground balls to fly balls has risen since coming off the DL, a positive sign given the Twins' awful outfield defense.
Rick Porcello suffered his 11th loss of the season in his last start, putting him one shy of his career high. This seems odd given the way Porcello has pitched in 2014, and it's hard to blame him for what happened five days ago. Porcello allowed two runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven with no walks. Unfortunately, he was matched up against James Shields, who held the Tigers to two hits and a walk in eight innings. This was only the second "hard luck loss" of the season for Porcello, although one could also count his outing in the 19 inning game against the Toronto Blue Jays in that tally.
Hitter to fear: Brian Dozier (.278/.316/.611 in 19 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Danny Santana (.000/.000/.000 in 4 plate appearances)
Porcello hasn't been very sharp against the Twins this year, allowing seven runs in 12 innings of work. He has not faced them since June, when he gave up three runs in seven innings of work. He walked three in that start, but took off afterward, tossing a pair of shutouts in two of his next three starts. Brian Dozier has the lone Twins home run off Porcello this season, while four others have doubled. None of the four Twins hitters with at least 10 career plate appearances against Porcello are hitting .300.
The Tigers have been on a roll lately, getting contributions up and down the batting order. The starting pitching has still struggled at times, and the Tigers have had a lot of trouble getting through the Twins' lineup undamaged. They are not alone in this, however, as the Twins have scored the third-most runs in baseball in the second half. First place on that list? The Tigers, who were able to squeak out a win against Nolasco in June.
Another barn burner, but the Tigers bullpen shows a little more resolve tonight.
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