Cleveland Indians (5-9) at Detroit Tigers (11-5)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe
Pitching Matchup: RHP Danny Salazar (1-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. RHP Shane Greene (3-0, 0.39 ERA)
The Tigers missed all three scheduled Indians starters in their first meeting with the Tribe this season, but Danny Salazar presents the most curious case. After a rough spring -- he allowed an 8.18 ERA in 11 innings -- Salazar was optioned to the minor leagues. The hard-throwing righthander made one start for Triple-A Columbus, tossing six shutout innings while striking out seven. Salazar was recalled on April 16, just 10 days after the start of the regular season. He took Zach McAllister's place in the rotation, whose only start of the year was the four-inning, 13-hit shellacking at the hands of the Tigers. Salazar pitched well in his debut, allowing two runs in six innings while striking out 10.
The quick double-take with Salazar may smell like panic to some, but it was a bit of a surprise to see the Indians option Salazar in the first place. He was relatively effective in 2014, allowing a 4.25 ERA and 3.52 FIP in 110 innings. His high-octane fastball helped result in a 25.3 percent strikeout rate, the 15th-highest in baseball among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched. Salazar blanked the Tigers in a start at Progressive Field last September, allowing eight hits and striking out nine with no walks in a 7-0 shutout.
Shane Greene had the worst outing of his Tigers career in his last start, allowing a run on five hits in seven innings. Of course, this just helps illustrate how absurdly good Greene has been in his first few outings. He walked four batters in his last start, but still has issued fewer than two free passes per nine innings on the season. His .188 BABIP and 88.2 percent strand rate are signs of impending regression, but Greene's dominance has everyone -- myself included -- drinking the Kool-Aid.
Tigers hitter to fear: Miguel Cabrera (.385/.385/.692 in 13 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: J.D. Martinez (.000/.143/.000 in 7 plate appearances)
The Tigers have seen plenty of Salazar in his young career, and things have generally gone his way. The 25-year-old is 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA in five starts against the Tigers, including two starts with zero runs allowed. He has 34 strikeouts to just five walks against Tigers hitters, and is allowing a .290 on-base percentage. Miguel Cabrera has had the most success against Salazar, though his late-inning home run in Salazar's second career start is fast becoming a distant memory. Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos, and Alex Avila are all hitting above .300 in very small sample sizes. J.D. Martinez has done the opposite, striking out six times in seven plate appearances.
Greene has thrown a first-pitch strike to 70 percent of the batters he has faced in 2015, a figure that would have ranked third among qualified MLB starters last season. This seems like a recipe for success against the Indians, who rank among the league leaders in pitches seen per plate appearance. Their swing rate is relatively low, however, indicating that they take a lot of pitches to work counts. This could get them into a quick 0-1 or 0-2 hole against Greene, who has shown an impressive variance of two-strike pitches so far this year. If Greene can limit his walk totals, the listless Indians offense could be in trouble.
Greene continues to wow and the Tigers stop their skid.
Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $125,000 one-day fantasy baseball league today. It's $2 to join and first place wins $10,000. Enter now!