Chicago White Sox (3-5) at Detroit Tigers (8-1)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jeff Samardzija (0-1, 6.23 ERA) vs. LHP David Price (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Jeff Samardzija has struggled in his first two starts with the White Sox, allowing nine runs in 13 innings. He was knocked around in both outings, allowing 14 hits and a pair of hit batters. While he has only walked three batters (all in his first start), he has struggled to command his fastball and slider in the early season. All six of the extra base hits he has allowed have come off those two pitches. Normally one to pound the bottom of the strike zone, Samardzija has left more pitches out over the plate than usual. He hung a fastball to Oswaldo Arcia (who pulled it foul).
And left a slider up to Chris Herrmann, who lined it into right field for a triple.
Last season, Samardzija didn't have these difficulties with his fastball and slider. He held opponents to a .211 batting average against the slider, while they hit .264 against his fastball. This year, they are hitting .306 against those two pitches combined in a very limited sample of 36 at-bats. He induced a 50.2 percent ground ball rate in 219 2/3 innings last season, but is at just 34.1 percent through two starts. This also comes on the heels of a brutal spring for Samardzija, in which he gave up 20 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings. It doesn't mean much yet, but Samardzija has not looked like the same pitcher that has a 3.70 ERA and 3.50 FIP in three seasons as a starter.
David Price also had trouble locating his pitches in his last start, walking three Cleveland Indians batters in six innings of work. This is atypical for Price, who has walked fewer than four percent of the batters he has faced in the past two seasons. Price was leaving many of his pitches high and to his arm side, which could have been a product of wanting to work on the outer half of the plate against the righty-heavy lineup he faced. All three of the batters Price walked were right-handed, and he left a crucial fastball up over the outer half of the plate to Jerry Sands in the sixth inning, who drove in a pair of runs with a double to right-center. He should see several right-handed batters in the lineup tonight -- including the ever-dangerous Jose Abreu -- so it will be interesting to see if the Tigers adjust his gameplan.
Hitter to fear: Melky Cabrera (318/.348/.364 in 23 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Gordon Beckham (.125/.222/.125 in 27 plate appearances)
The White Sox have had some success against Price in his career, beating him five times in 10 starts. His 3.62 ERA against them is almost half a run higher than his career ERA despite allowing just a .686 OPS in 289 plate appearances. Price nearly threw a shutout against them last September, but allowed three runs in the ninth inning before he was removed from the game with two outs. With Paul Konerko now gone, the only players that have faced Price more than 10 times are Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, and Melky Cabrera. Only Cabrera is hitting above .240. Adam Eaton has five hits in eight plate appearances, all singles. Jose Abreu homered once in seven at-bats last season.
Despite a rough start to the season, Samarzija showed some positive signs in his last start by allowing just two hits in his final five innings of work. With a solid track record on his résumé and a few good innings now under his belt, it's probably safe to expect that we'll see his best effort of the season to date today. Things could get very interesting if the Tigers' speedsters get on base, though. Samardzija has allowed four stolen bases on five attempts already this year, and isn't particularly quick to the plate from his set position. The new-look Tigers already lead the league with 13 stolen bases, and could add a few more to the tally today if the opportunity arises.
Price returns to form and the Tigers manufacture another low-scoring win.
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Yoenis Cespedes, DH
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Alex Avila, C
- Jose Iglesias, SS
- Rajai Davis, LF
White Sox lineup:
- Adam Eaton, CF
- Melky Cabrera, LF
- Jose Abreu, 1B
- Avisail Garcia, RF
- Adam LaRoche, DH
- Alexei Ramirez, SS
- Gordon Beckham, 3B
- Geovany Soto, C
- Emilio Bonifacio, 2B
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