New York Yankees (6-7) at Detroit Tigers (11-2)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Pinstripe Alley
Pitching Matchup: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (0-0, 4.35 ERA) vs. LHP Kyle Lobstein (1-0, 5.40 ERA)
Nathan Eovaldi was the ultimate feast-or-famine pitcher last season, which resulted in relatively mediocre numbers overall. He had 10 starts with one earned run allowed or fewer, and 10 starts with at least five runs allowed. It was a step back for the then-24-year-old, who was a popular breakout pick after allowing a 3.39 ERA in 106 1/3 innings in 2013. Instead, Eovaldi gave up more hits than any pitcher in the National League, and saw his career record dip to 15-35. Through two starts in 2015, Eovaldi has held opponents to five total runs, but has allowed 16 hits in the process.
Blessed with a fastball that rests in the upper 90s and can hit triple digits, his strikeout rate has been more Rick Porcello than Max Scherzer. His strikeout-to-walk ratio got a lot better thanks to an improved walk rate, while his strikeout rate actually declined slightly. His fastball only induced whiffs at a 6.6 percent rate in 2014, a startling figure given his velocity. His mid-80s slider had the highest whiff rate of any of his pitches, and was the finisher on 57 of his 142 strikeouts. His curveball is unremarkable, and he did not register a single strikeout with his changeup in 2014.
The changeup -- or lack thereof -- is a big reason why Eovaldi has struggled so much against lefties. They hit .296/.330/.438 against him last season, and have a .769 OPS off him in his career. He was able to significantly cut his walk rate against left-handed batters last season, but still had no way of getting them out. The curveball could be an answer to his problems, though. Lefties hit .232 off Eovaldi's curve last season, by far the best rate of any of his pitches (they hit .471 off the changeup). Eleven of the 13 hits he gave up with the curveball were singles, and they pounded it into the ground 53.6 percent of the time. If he can continue to develop both the curveball and the splitter he has been working on, the young starter could yet develop into a useful piece for the Yankees.
Kyle Lobstein wasn't particularly efficient in his season debut against the Cleveland Indians 10 days ago, but he had a three-run lead before he even toed the mound at Progressive Field. He threw 97 pitches in five innings, and allowed 10 baserunners. He was able to strand the other seven, though, but only worked one 1-2-3 inning. Four of the eight hits he allowed were to left-handed batters, including a double by Brandon Moss in the third inning. With speedy lefties Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner at the top of the lineup, Lobstein will need to sharpen his command in order to keep the bases clear in front of the Yankees' sluggers.
Hitter to fear: Carlos Beltran (.500/.500/1.000 in 2 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Brett Gardner (.000/.000/.000 in 2 plate appearances)
Both starters have made just one career start against their respective opponents, resulting in some extremely small head-to-head sample sizes. Lobstein only allowed one extra base hit, a double, to Carlos Beltran in his start against the Yankees last season, while Eovaldi held the Tigers to one run in six innings while pitching for the Miami Marlins in September 2013. Miguel Cabrera is the only current Tiger who had a hit in that game. Yoenis Cespedes is 3 for 7 with a double against Eovaldi.
After three straight games against left-handed starters, the Tigers will finally see another righthander. While Eovaldi's 2014 numbers don't look particularly intimidating, he limited right-handed hitters to a .315 on-base percentage and .688 slugging average last season. We may see Andrew Romine get a start tonight to take advantage of Eovaldi's huge platoon splits, but don't be surprised if the Tigers offense continues to struggle. Meanwhile, Lobstein hasn't seen game action in over a week and is facing a lineup that is scoring five runs per game so far this season. This one doesn't look good on paper.
The bullpen takes its turn in the spotlight, closing out another one-run victory for the Tigers.
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