Milwaukee Brewers (15-25) at Detroit Tigers (23-17)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Brew Crew Ball
Pitching Matchup: RHP Kyle Lohse (3-4, 5.85 ERA) vs. RHP Shane Greene (4-2, 4.21 ERA)
Kyle Lohse has been around for a long time. Now 36 years old, Lohse debuted with the Minnesota Twins back in 2002. He has totaled over 2,400 innings since then, ranking seventh among active MLB pitchers. Despite all that mileage on his arm, Lohse has been a consistent presence in the Brewers' rotation over the past few years. He has a 27-23 record and 3.70 ERA since signing with Milwaukee, a figure highly skewed by this season's 5.85 ERA in eight starts. In the previous four years, Lohse has a 3.28 ERA and 3.80 FIP in nearly 800 innings pitched.
This has been somewhat of a late-career renaissance for Lohse, who had a career 4.79 ERA and 4.53 FIP in over 1,500 innings heading into the 2011 season. While he did start throwing more off-speed pitches, there was no "revelation" of sorts. Lohse has kept the same arsenal throughout his major league career, relying primarily on a two-seam fastball, slider, and changeup. The difference? He started commanding them better. From 2002 to 2010, Lohse walked 7.1 percent of the batters he faced. Since 2011, he has lowered his walk rate to just 4.9 percent. His strikeout rate has generally remained the same, and has even trended upward slightly in 2015.
This season, Lohse has been plagued by a rash of home runs. His fly ball rate has been trending upward as of late, but his home run per fly ball rate has nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015. It's tough to definitively say that this is a fluke, but Lohse's percentage of hard contact allowed has barely changed since 2013. ESPN's Home Run Tracker rated six of Lohse's 10 home runs allowed as "just enough" distance to clear the fences, and only two dingers would have been a home run in all 30 MLB parks. Lohse's last start was his first homer-free outing of the year, and he has only given up two home runs in May, so things may be starting to turn around.
Before Shane Greene's last start, I postulated that teams who have not faced him before are having a tougher time getting a handle on his electric arsenal. Greene added another favorable data point to my theory in his last outing, holding the St. Louis Cardinals scoreless for five innings. He now has a 2.25 ERA in six starts against teams who have not yet faced him in 2015, and is averaging nearly seven innings per outing. In two "repeat" starts, Greene's ERA is 15.43. Greene left the game early due to a mild case of ulnar neuritis, but was feeling fine the next day.
Tigers hitter to fear: Miguel Cabrera (.308/.400/.846 in 15 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: J.D. Martinez (.143/.222/.143 in 9 plate appearances)
Kyle Lohse has been in the National League for the past decade, but was a member of the Twins for the first five seasons of his career. These early years with the Twins resulted in plenty of starts against the Tigers, most of which did not go well. Lohse is 7-6 in 20 career starts against Detroit, but is sporting a 5.66 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in 111 1/3 innings. These numbers aren't very relevant, however, as Lohse has only pitched against the Tigers once since 2008. Five Tigers players have more than three career plate appearances against Lohse, but two -- Victor Martinez and Alfredo Simon -- will not get any at-bats in tonight's game. Miguel Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes both have a pair of home runs off Lohse.
Anibal Sanchez was not sharp last night, but the Brewers' recent offensive surge is not limited to just this series. They have scored 82 runs in 18 games this month, or over 4.5 per game. Only six teams have scored more runs in May, and only one team -- the Houston Astros, who come to Comerica Park tomorrow -- have hit more home runs. This doesn't appear to be a fluke, as the runs are coming from predictable places. Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun have hit a combined eight home runs this month while driving in 28 RBI. They have eight of Milwaukee's 11 RBI in this series, making it clear who Greene needs to slow down tonight if he is going to notch his fifth win of the season.
Greene out-pitches Lohse to prevent the sweep, but the offensive woes continue.
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