Kansas City Royals (19-11) at Detroit Tigers (19-12)
Time/Place: 8:05 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Royals Review
Media: ESPN, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Chris Young (2-0, 1.06 ERA) vs. RHP Shane Greene (3-2, 5.56 ERA)
Chris Young made his first start of the season against the Tigers nine days ago, holding them without a hit through five innings while striking out nine. Young was lifted from the game with his no-hitter intact, but the Tigers later snapped the no-no and the shutout in a 4-1 loss. This was nothing new for Young and the Tigers, though. In five career starts against Detroit, Young is 3-0 with a 1.41 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. The Tigers are hitting just .156/.227/.266 with two home runs in 120 plate appearances against the 6'10" righthander.
While Young has dominated the Tigers, he has also pitched quite well against everyone else. He has a 1.06 ERA in 17 innings this season, 12 of which have come in relief. Last season he earned the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award with a 3.65 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 165 innings for the Seattle Mariners. Utilizing his tall frame and a high fastball, Young induced fly ball after fly ball to keep opposing lineups in check. He is up to those same tricks in 2015, with a 69.1 percent fly ball rate in the early season.
Young's enormous fly ball rate will fall eventually, along with his 26.7 percent strikeout rate. He has fanned just under 20 percent of the batters he has faced in his career, and finished the 2014 season with a 15.7 percent strikeout rate. His 13.6 percent whiff rate in the early going would have ranked second in all of baseball last season, and is nearly double his 7.1 percent swinging strike rate from last season. There is no guarantee that regression happens tonight, though. In 32 career innings against the Tigers, Young has 32 strikeouts.
Shane Greene's Jekyll-and-Hyde season continued in his last start, a 2-2/3-inning start that was the shortest outing of the season. Greene's command has fallen off the map in his last three starts, with six walks in 11 innings. He is throwing first-pitch strikes to 57.6 percent of the batters he has faced, down from the 70 percent clip he had in his first three starts. His strikeout rate has actually gone up, but his whiff rate has nearly been halved, as opposing hitters aren't offering at as many pitches outside the strike zone. Strike one is important for all pitchers, but it seems especially so with Greene.
Tigers hitter to fear: Andrew Romine (.500/.500/.750 in 4 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Victor Martinez (.100/.182/.100 in 11 plate appearances)
How bad have the Tigers been against Chris Young? Their current roster is hitting .108/.213/.200 against him with one home run, courtesy of Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera and Andrew Romine are the only players with multiple hits off Young, and five Tigers batters are hitless in a small sample of plate appearances. Rajai Davis has reached base four times in five plate appearances, all on walks.
Getting back into first place with a win would be nice, but the more important factor in tonight's game is how Shane Greene performs. The Tigers have been fortunate that Kyle Lobstein has pitched well in Justin Verlander's absence, but they need their 26-year-old righthander to get back on track. Greene could very well be pitching for his job at this point, and another rough outing could make him the odd man out in a few weeks. He will need to be at his best tonight, unless the Tigers finally figure out a way to solve Chris Young.
Greene improves, but Young silences the Tigers' bats again for a Royals victory.
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