Cleveland Indians (6-9) at Detroit Tigers (11-6)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe
Pitching Matchup: RHP Trevor Bauer (2-0, 0.95 ERA) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (3-0, 1.74 ERA)
When the Indians were getting a lot of preseason love from the national media, the backbone of their proclamations was the Tribe's starting rotation. While their starters are second in baseball with 2.2 WAR already, the Indians' rotation has a 3.95 ERA, sixth in the American League. They have been good -- their 2.75 FIP leads baseball, for what it's worth -- but not as dominant as many projected. There is still a lot of baseball left to be played, though, and Danny Salazar looked awful frightening last night.
Trevor Bauer has held up his end of the bargain so far this season, though. The 24-year-old righthander already has two scoreless outings in three starts, nearly matching his total of three from last season. He is getting plenty of swings and misses, with 26 strikeouts in 19 innings of work. Bauer's 13.2 percent whiff rate ranks 12th among MLB starters (and fourth on his own team). He also has yet to allow a home run, a feat that becomes more impressive when you consider he has already pitched in bandboxes in Houston and Chicago.
Then, there are the walks. Bauer has issued 11 walks already this season, including a pair of four-walk outings to open the year. This is nothing new for Bauer, who struggled with his command throughout his days in the minor leagues. He has allowed more walks than hits so far, and has stranded all but two of the batters who have reached base against him this season.
Alfredo Simon has been living a bit of a charmed life in his past two starts, allowing just one run in 15 1/3 innings while only striking out nine batters. Strikeouts have never been a big part of Simon's game, but the .195 BABIP he has allowed in this short stretch won't continue for long. To his credit, Simon has done well to induce a lot of weak contact. He has a 48.3 percent ground ball rate, and only one of the 16 fly balls he has allowed this season has resulted in a hit. Simon was hit a bit harder by the Indians in his first start of the year, allowing three runs in a hurry in the sixth inning of an 8-4 Tigers win.
Hitter to fear: Michael Brantley (.583/.615/.833 in 13 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Lonnie Chisenhall (.200/.200/.600 in 10 plate appearances)
On paper, this is a bad matchup for the Tigers. The Indians are relatively familiar with Simon given their regional rivalry with the Cincinnati Reds, and have hit him hard throughout his career. The current Tribe roster is hitting a whopping .388/.453/.522 against Simon, led by Michael Brantley's seven hits in 12 at-bats. Carlos Santana, David Murphy, Mike Aviles, and Michael Bourn are all hitting .333 or better against him in limited action, while Lonnie Chisenhall has doubled and homered in 10 at-bats.
After getting off to a hot start, the Tigers' starting pitching has cooled off in a hurry. Anibal Sanchez went through a rough patch before righting the ship this week, while David Price and Shane Greene were both served a steaming plate of regression in their last starts. Kyle Lobstein turned in a decent outing this time through the rotation, but the Tigers were unable to capitalize, starting the losing streak that is dogging them now. Simon is the last Tigers starter to both win a game and work seven innings. Unfortunately, his career numbers against the Indians aren't very promising. The offense will probably need to wake up in order to come away with a 'W' today.
The Tigers snap the losing streak in a wild matinee affair.
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