Detroit Tigers (13-6) at Minnesota Twins (8-10)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Pitching Matchup: LHP David Price (1-1, 3.28 ERA) vs. LHP Tommy Milone (2-0, 3.38 ERA)
Tommy Milone has been a thorn in the Tigers' side during his five-year MLB career, winning three of his five starts against them. Milone has held Tigers hitters to a .274 batting average and .682 OPS, resulting in a 2.83 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. Most of this success -- including all three of the wins -- came while Milone was pitching for the Oakland Athletics. He shut the Tigers down in a start for the A's last year, tossing six shutout innings in a 10-0 A's victory. He wasn't quite as sharp in a start for the Twins later in the year, allowing five runs (three earned) on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. He has 21 strikeouts to nine walks in his career against the Tigers.
His numbers against the Tigers may be overpowering, but his stuff is the exact opposite. Milone relies on a four-seam fastball that has topped out at 90.4 miles per hour this season. He has thrown his fastball roughly 60 percent of the time in his first three starts, up slightly from his 55 percent usage rate last season. It was hit hardest of all his pitches last season, resulting in 11 of the 16 home runs he allowed. Opponents also had some success against his changeup, hitting .276 with four home runs on that pitch. It is his best offspeed offering, however, and also induced a 17 whiff rate.
Milone also throws a cutter and curveball, but the changeup is what helps him keep righthanders in check. Right-handed batters hit .273/.333/.438 against him last season and have a .733 OPS off him in his career, a very respectable total for a soft-tossing lefthander. He used the changeup 28 percent of the time against righthanders last season, and was excellent about keeping it down in the strike zone.
If you're even the slightest bit concerned about David Price, consider this: it took a 2-1/3-inning, eight-run outing against the Yankees to balloon his ERA all the way up to 3.28. Sure, there were a few unearned runs against the Cleveland Indians involved -- thanks to his own throwing error, no less -- but it took an April snowstorm to finally slow down the Tigers' ace. With much more favorable weather conditions estimated tonight, we should see a pitcher closer to the David Price that threw 8 2/3 shutout innings against these same Twins on Opening Day.
Hitter to fear: Torii Hunter (.308/.357/.462 in 28 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Joe Mauer (.185/.290/.222 in 31 plate appearances)
Here's a fun fact for you: five of the 10 different Twins hitters Price faced on Opening Day collected a hit against him, and despite finishing with a plethora of 1-for-4s, all five players actually improved their career numbers against him. Joe Mauer has been one of the worst of the bunch, and is now sitting on just five hits in 27 at-bats. Torii Hunter (8-for-26) and Brian Dozier (two home runs) are both threats from the right side. Twins manager Paul Molitor has been shuffling his lineup recently -- Dozier lead off twice last weekend and Hunter has been hitting second lately -- but regardless of where they hit, navigating through those two is the key to solving this relatively shallow lineup. Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar were Tiger killers in 2014, and could also pose a threat.
The Twins are 8-7 since they left Detroit battered, beaten, and bruised, but their offense hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire. They have scored 59 runs in their last 15 games, just under four per contest. They have been pitching very well, though, limiting opponents to two runs or fewer in seven of those 15 games. Milone was responsible for one of those on April 10, but has been knocked out of the game in the sixth inning in his past two starts. His numbers against the Tigers have been solid, but they have gotten to him a couple times as well. With a much better lefty starting against him this time -- Milone last faced Robbie Ray in a game we'd all like to forget -- the Tigers should have the edge tonight.
Price bounces back and the Tigers cruise to their third consecutive victory.
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