Detroit Tigers (84-67) at Minnesota Twins (64-87)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Pitching Matchup: LHP David Price (14-11, 3.26 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (11-11, 4.58 ERA)
Kyle Gibson flirted with an ERA in the mid-3's during the first half of the season after tossing a trio of shutout outings -- including a seven inning effort against the Tigers -- in June. At the All-Star break, he had a respectable 3.92 ERA and 3.74 FIP. Things have fallen apart in the second half, though. Gibson has a 5.74 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 10 second half starts, raising his season-long ERA to 4.58. He has allowed five or more earned runs in five starts since the break, including one against the Tigers on August 24th. Gibson was battered by the Cleveland Indians in his last outing, allowing seven runs on seven hits in just three innings.
The biggest problem that Gibson has run into in the second half is a sharp spike in his walk rate. He walked just 2.58 batters per nine innings in the first half, but has issued 22 free passes in 58 innings since the break, a rate of 3.41 per nine innings. This spike in walk rate has coincided with an increase in his strikeout rate, but not enough to balance out the higher number of baserunners. It doesn't help that Gibson allows opposing batters to hit .263/.341/.419 with runners on base and .262/.352/.450 with men in scoring position.
David Price ran into trouble early in his last start against the Cleveland Indians. After retiring a pair of hitters in the second inning, Ryan Raburn homered to give the Tribe a 1-0 lead. Then, Lonnie Chisenhall and Mike Aviles followed with sharp base hits. It looked like more of the same from a struggling-but-not-struggling Price, but he was able to get out of the inning without further damage. That would be all of the offense that the Indians could muster, though. Price held them to just four singles over his next 5 2/3 innings, departing with two outs in the eighth inning.
So, to recap, here are Price's numbers with that awful outing against the New York Yankees removed: 54 innings pitched, 2.41 ERA, 58 strikeouts, nine walks, five home runs allowed, and a 0.94 WHIP.
Hitter to fear: Eduardo Nunez (.290/.353/.452 in 34 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Joe Mauer (.167/.286/.222 in 21 plate appearances)
Good news, Tigers fans: David Price has dominated the Twins in his career. He is 4-2 with a 2.34 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in eight starts against them, including a 2-0 record and 1.59 ERA this season. He has an astounding 21 strikeouts to just one walk against the Twins in 17 innings. Price's ability to get ahead in the count is particularly effective against this lineup, as the Twins have the third lowest swing rate in baseball. Eduardo Nunez is the only Twin to have any semblance of sustained success against Price, with nine hits in 31 career at-bats.
The Tigers let a golden opportunity to extend their division lead slip away last night, but thanks to Kansas City's loss, they did not lose any ground either. Tonight, the Tigers have an even better chance to widen the margin, as Chris Sale pitches for the Chicago White Sox. Extending the lead to what essentially amounts to a three game lead before heading into Kansas City would significantly lessen the pressure on the Tigers for the upcoming series. Price's "pound the strike zone" mentality seems to match up well against the uber-patient Twins, so I like their odds here.
The Tigers and Royals both win to set the stage for a huge weekend series in Kansas City.
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