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Game 139 Preview: Tigers at Indians

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Danny Salazar beat Justin Verlander in a September showdown last season (sort of). Verlander got his revenge in April. Who will win round three?

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David Maxwell

Detroit Tigers (76-62) at Cleveland Indians (70-66)

Time/Place: 7:05 p.m., Progressive Field

SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (12-11, 4.68 ERA) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (5-6, 4.23 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Verlander 27 171.1 6.93 3.15 0.84 1.45 3.92 4.29 2.5
Salazar 15 78.2 9.50 3.20 1.14 1.40 3.85 3.57 1.1

The 2014 season hasn't exactly been the banner year that the Indians expected out of Danny Salazar, in part thanks to some previously unseen command issues. Salazar has walked 56 batters in 139 1/3 innings between Triple-A Columbus and the major leagues this season. This rate of 3.6 walks per nine innings is the highest of his professional career. That said, it seems that he has gotten past the command problems. Salazar has walked just 11 hitters in his last eight starts while holding opponents to a 2.60 ERA and .595 OPS.

This eight start stretch includes seven at the big league level, where Salazar has looked close to his 2013 self. He has "only" 36 strikeouts in 38 innings, but has only allowed 33 hits during this stretch. He has also solved the home run issues that crept up earlier this season, only allowing a pair of homers since mid-July. He has not been particularly efficient, working six innings or more in just three of those seven starts (and five of his 15 major league starts this season).

Justin Verlander is coming off one of the best outings of his 2014 season in his last start, holding the Chicago White Sox to a single run in seven innings of work. He scattered nine hits, but -- more importantly -- racked up eight strikeouts to just two walks. He induced 12 whiffs on 116 pitches, six of which came on his fastball, which topped out at 96 miles per hour. Is he back? It's still far too early to say, but that last outing was certainly encouraging.

Hitter to fear: Michael Brantley (.354/.392/.417 in 51 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Jason Kipnis (.103/.229/.138 in 35 plate appearances)

Oh, goodie. We've reached the part where I have to cite Verlander's awful career numbers at Progressive Field. Verlander is just 9-11 with a 5.22 ERA against the Indians on the road in his career, and the past few seasons has been no different. He was lit up for five runs on 11 hits in six innings in a start in Cleveland in May, but rebounded to allow a pair of runs in seven innings in June. Overall, the Indians are hitting .301/.370/.438 in three games against Verlander this season.

Outlook

While the Tigers have had their fair share of issues playing in Cleveland over the past few years, late season baseball has not been one of them. The Tigers are 12-3 at Progressive Field in August and September since 2011, underlining their ability to break away from the back down the stretch en route to three consecutive division titles. Verlander's performance has mirrored his team's success, as he has thrown a pair of late season gems in Cleveland in each of the past two seasons. Will that streak continue tonight?

Prediction

The Tigers continue their winning ways in less stressful fashion tonight.

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