Detroit Tigers (15-8) at Kansas City Royals (15-7)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation blog: Royals Review
Pitching Matchup: LHP Kyle Lobstein (2-1, 3.50 ERA) vs. RHP Chris Young (1-0, 1.86 ERA)
The Tigers had a rough time in two games against Chris Young last year, scoring two runs on seven hits in 12 innings. Young won both starts, two of the 12 wins he had on the season. Despite limiting opponents to a 3.65 ERA in 165 innings -- his highest total since 2007 -- few teams showed interest in the 6'10" righthander this offseason. The Royals did not pick up Young until March 7, and stuck him at the back end of their bullpen for instances just like this. Young has made five appearances this season, allowing two runs on four hits.
Despite a fastball that topped out at 90 miles per hour and sat in the mid-to-high 80s last season, Young relied on that pitch roughly two-thirds of the time. He lived at the top of the strike zone, resulting in a 58.7 percent fly ball rate, easily the highest in baseball. He gave up 26 home runs in the process, but otherwise was able to limit opponents to a very low BABIP and high strand rate. Under normal circumstances, both of those stats would regress in 2015, but Young is now pitching in front of the best defensive outfield in baseball in a notoriously stingy ballpark. His unique delivery plane and unconventional approach -- working high instead of low -- helps offset his lack of velocity.
Fellow soft-tosser Kyle Lobstein doesn't have Young's height, and relies a little more on his offspeed stuff. Lobstein has backed off of his changeup use somewhat in 2015, but still does not hesitate to throw it in all counts against right-handed batters. This helped him limit righties to a .686 OPS last season, but he has struggled to keep them off the bases this season. Righthanders are batting .278 with a .365 on-base percentage against Lobstein this year, with five walks to one strikeout. With at least three lefties likely to be in tonight's lineup -- Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas -- Lobstein will need to keep them in check in order to limit any damage caused by the righties.
Tigers hitter to fear: Andrew Romine (.500/.500/.750 in 4 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Ian Kinsler (.000/.000/.000 in 8 plate appearances)
Young has spent most of his career in the National League, and has only made four career starts against the Tigers. He has been extremely effective in all of them, allowing just five runs in 27 innings. Only Andrew Romine and Miguel Cabrera have multiple hits against Young in their respective careers, and Cabrera is just 2 for 15 with a home run. Rajai Davis may actually be the most successful Tigers hitter against Young: he is 0 for 1 with four walks.
After seeing both Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon get lit up in recent games, one has to wonder how much longer Lobstein will be able to keep hitters off balance with his limited repertoire. He has struggled to get settled in recent starts, allowing a .799 OPS the first time through the batting order. Royals righthanders are hitting .337/.406/.517 against left-handed pitching this season, and they have an .805 OPS against lefties as a team. This is a really bad matchup for the Tigers on paper.
The Tigers struggle to score again and drop their second game in a row.
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