Cleveland Indians (6-10) at Detroit Tigers (12-6)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe
Pitching Matchup: RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-1, 2.38 ERA) vs. LHP Kyle Lobstein (1-1, 3.27 ERA)
Carlos Carrasco is fortunate to be starting today's game. Just 12 days ago, Carrasco was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Melky Cabrera in the first inning of a start against the Chicago White Sox. He stayed on the field for a few minutes and left the game afterward, but miraculously had no injuries or concussion-like symptoms. He returned to action a week later, holding the same White Sox to one run in five innings of work. Carrasco struck out eight and did not walk a batter, and allowed just four hits. He was just as dominant in his first start of the year, holding the Houston Astros to three hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts in his first start of the season.
It's early, but Carrasco's two non-injury-shortened starts are a continuation of his incredible finish to the 2014 season. After spending the majority of the year in the bullpen, Carrasco returned to the rotation with a flourish, holding opponents to a 1.30 ERA in 10 starts down the stretch. He struck out 78 batters and walked 11 in 69 innings, an impressive 7.09 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Carrasco had dealt with command issues throughout his career, but in scrapping his wind-up and pitching exclusively from the stretch, he finally found some consistency. The Indians were comfortable enough with this change to give Carrasco a four-year contract extension on the eve of the regular season.
Carrasco has always had an electric arsenal, but improving his fastball command allowed him to make better use of his stellar off-speed pitches. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and generates a high percentage of ground balls, while his slider and changeup are all but unhittable. Both pitches generated a whiff rate of 27 or better during his final 10 starts of 2014, and those percentages have jumped even more early on in 2015. Carrasco also sports a curveball that he throws to righties more than lefties.
Kyle Lobstein has made two starts this year, and has given the Tigers a chance to win the game both times. They did so in his first start, beating these same Indians 8-5 to cap off a sweep at Progressive Field. He was even better in his last start, holding the New York Yankees to one run in six innings in a 5-2 Tigers loss. Early on, it looked like Lobstein would have trouble making it through a few innings, but he ended up limiting the Yankees to just three hits. Lobstein walked four batters, however, and has issued six free passes in 11 innings this season.
Hitter to fear: Carlos Santana (.429/.500/.857 in 8 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Mike Aviles (.200/.200/.400 in 6 plate appearances)
Three of Lobstein's eight career starts have come against the Indians. The win he picked up on April 12 was his only decision against the Tribe, but he has a 5.28 ERA in 15 1/3 innings. He struck out 10 in his first start against them on September 2, 2014, but has only fanned five Indians hitters in his last two starts. Carlos Santana has had Lobstein's number so far, collecting three hits (including a home run) in seven at-bats. Only Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez are hitless against Lobstein, while David Murphy and Brett Hayes have never faced the 25-year-old lefthander.
The Tigers' 13-1 loss to the Indians on Friday night left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, but a win today would give the Tigers a 10-2 record against the AL Central this season. That 10th win seems to be a tall order on paper, as Carrasco has given zero indication of falling off from last fall's incredible finish. He has 18 strikeouts to just one walk so far, while allowing just nine hits. The Indians have been limiting his pitch count so far, so if the Tigers can make him work early on, they could get into the bullpen early.
Lobstein keeps the Tigers close, but Carrasco proves to be too much for the Tigers.
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