Detroit Tigers (86-68) at Kansas City Royals (83-70)
Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation blog: Royals Review
Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (15-11, 3.19 ERA) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (11-11, 4.35 ERA)
The Tigers lit up Jeremy Guthrie in their meeting two weeks ago, scoring eight runs (six earned) on 10 hits and a walk. Guthrie failed to get out of the third inning, and the eight outs he recorded marked his shortest big league outing since June 21, 2013. It was the second time Guthrie had allowed eight runs in a start against the Tigers this season, and the fifth time he has allowed double digit hits to them since joining the Royals in 2012.
Guthrie bounced back from his awful start five days later, holding the Boston Red Sox to an unearned run on three hits in eight strong innings. He recorded 14 outs via the fly ball, a Guthrie staple that has benefitted from the spacious outfield at Kauffman Stadium. His 4.06 career ERA in games played in Kansas City is slightly better than his overall career mark of 4.25.
Fun fact: Rick Porcello is tied for the MLB lead with three shutouts. Only Henderson Alvarez and Adam Wainwright have blanked the opposition as many times as Porcello has. Wainwright needs no introduction, but the 24 year old Alvarez has had a similar breakout season to Porcello. Both have achieved career high win totals and career-best ERAs, though they had lower FIPs in 2013. Barring a total meltdown, Porcello will top the 200 inning barrier for the first time in his career this afternoon.
Porcello was excellent in his last start, allowing two runs in eight innings against the Minnesota Twins. Having thrown just 103 pitches, it would not have been unreasonable to see him start the ninth inning for the Tigers after they took a short-lived 3-2 lead. Porcello walked two Twins hitters in that start, the first time he had done so in over a month. He has not walked three hitters in a start during the second half. His eight walks in 78 1/3 second half innings is the 12th highest total on the team. Seven Tigers relievers have issued more free passes than him since the All-Star break.
Hitter to fear: Josh Willingham (.375/.500/.750 in 30 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Alcides Escobar (.069/.069/.069 in 29 plate appearances)
Porcello has been excellent against the Royals this season, holding them to a scant 2.18 ERA and .579 OPS in three starts. He "only" went 6 2/3 innings in his last meeting with them after going seven full innings in their first two matchups. Amazingly, he did not face the Royals in 2013. Omar Infante and Billy Butler are the only Royals hitters with any semblance of success against Porcello this year, combining for seven hits in 14 at-bats. The rest of the team is just 10 for 61.
The Tigers can effectively put away the division with a win today. While there is still a week of baseball left, a victory would give the Tigers a 3 1/2 game lead -- four games if you're willing to count the suspended game Kansas City is scheduled to make up tomorrow night -- with just seven to play. Of course, things have not been that easy in 2014, and it's hard to see this one being anything than a hard-fought battle despite the sizable advantage the Tigers have on paper with today's pitching matchup. Guthrie has held the Tigers in check before, and he has been quite stingy in his last two home starts.
The Royals avoid a sweep with a solid pitching performance from Guthrie and company.