Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Pitching Matchup: RHP Anthony Swarzak (3-2, 4.52 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (15-12, 3.31 ERA)
Anthony Swarzak's latest stint as a spot starter has not gone well. We all remember his start against the Tigers 11 days ago when he allowed six runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings. Of course, we also remember how the Twins came back to tie the score before the Tigers eventually pulled out an 8-6 victory, but let's not rehash that part. Swarzak wasn't much better in his next start, giving up five runs (three earned) on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians. He tallied just four strikeouts to three walks in a combined 8 2/3 innings in these two starts. Opposing batters are hitting .442/.478/.581 in this small sample. Hey, at least he hasn't given up a homer, right?
These two starts are a far cry from what Swarzak has been able to do as a reliever over the past couple years. He allowed a 2.91 ERA and 3.28 FIP in 48 relief appearances last season, and a 4.10 ERA and 3.95 FIP this year. His 2.98 FIP as a starter in 2014 is a bit misleading, and his 4.88 xFIP tells more of the story. For his career, Swarzak has a 4.85 FIP and 4.90 xFIP in 159 2/3 innings as a starter.
Speaking of mediocre starters, Rick Porcello was in that boat five days ago. He allowed four runs on nine hits in just 3 1/3 innings of work against the Kansas City Royals, spoiling the Tigers' chances at a sweep. Ironically, the start resulted in Porcello's 12th loss of the season, a career high. It was also the second time in September that he has failed to get through the fourth inning. However, he still has a 3.20 ERA and 3.03 FIP in the second half, largely thanks to a 5.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Hitter to fear: Kennys Vargas (1.000/1.000/2.667 in 3 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Aaron Hicks (.143/.250/.143 in 8 plate appearances)
Kennys Vargas terrorized Tigers pitching during the three game series these teams played at Target Field earlier this month, but Porcello took the worst of the punishment. Vargas was 3 for 3 in their meeting, falling a double shy of the cycle. He and Brian Dozier are the only Twins playing this weekend who have homered off Porcello in their respective careers.
Last night's lock-down bullpen was a refreshing change of pace for this Tigers team, but probably not something we should get used to. Max Scherzer was inefficient, but effective against a Twins lineup that has given the Tigers fits all season. Porcello has fared slightly better, and will look to continue the rotation's solid run since leaving Kansas City. If the offense can continue their success against Swarzak -- who has a career 5.83 ERA against the Tigers -- then this should be another easy win.
The Tigers win, but the champagne stays on ice for one more night.