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Game 26 Preview: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals

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Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Guthrie square off in the series finale between the Tigers and Royals.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers (16-9) at Kansas City Royals (16-8)

Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium

SB Nation blog: Royals Review

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (1-3, 5.46 ERA) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (1-1, 5.87 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Sanchez 5 29.2 9.40 2.43 1.52 1.28 4.08 3.43 0.5
Guthrie 4 23.0 3.91 3.91 1.57 1.52 5.99 5.50 -0.3

Jeremy Guthrie has gotten off to a rough start in 2015, allowing 15 earned runs in his first 23 innings of the season. He picked up a win in his first start thanks to a healthy dose of run support from a surprisingly potent Royals offense, but still has yet to record a quality start this year. Part of this may be due to a drop in velocity, something that Royals Review's Kevin Ruprecht noticed prior to his last start.

I'm used to him tossing 93mph fastballs and pumping it up to 94 or 95 when he really wants to. Given that velocity, I'm surprised he's not a little more effective, but whatever. Guthrie's average four-seam velocity last year was 92.9. His average sinker velocity was 93. See the decline from last year to this year. His fastball and change are down; his breaking stuff is up. That's not a good combination.

Things have been a little better lately -- he touched 95 miles per hour in a start against the Minnesota Twins and nearly matched that in his next start -- but there is still a significant difference in his velocity profile between 2014 and 2015.

Jeremy Guthrie velocity

Anibal Sanchez had a lot of trouble working through opposing lineups a third time in 2014, something I thought was a product of his shoulder injury during spring training. This phenomenon resurfaced in Sanchez's last start, a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins on April 28. Sanchez cruised through the first six innings, allowing one run while throwing just 71 pitches. He ran into trouble in the seventh, giving up two runs on four hits. His overall body of work wasn't bad -- he allowed three runs on nine hits in seven innings with zero walks -- but was handed a loss thanks to the Tigers' cold bats. Despite the decision, it was still a step in the right direction for Sanchez, who handed out four walks in his last start.

Hitter to fear: Alex Gordon (.333/.375/.400 in 16 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Jarrod Dyson (.105/.105/.105 in 19 plate appearances)

Sanchez has dominated the Royals in his career, limiting them to a 1.07 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in seven starts. He has never allowed more than one run in a start against the Royals since he joined the Tigers, and has worked at least seven innings in six of his seven starts. The current Royals roster is hitting a paltry .197/.243/.235 against him in 140 combined plate appearances. Alex Gordon and Kendrys Morales are the only Royals batters with a batting average above .250, and no one has homered.

Outlook

Guthrie's career numbers against the Tigers don't look particularly impressive, but they are actually better than his overall numbers. Tigers batters are hitting .303/.350/.453 against him in 545 plate appearances, and six of the Tigers' probable starters have an OPS of .847 or better in at least 10 plate appearances. If this pattern holds -- the rest of the series has largely gone to plan so far -- then the Tigers should be in a good position to finish off the series with a win.

Prediction

The Tigers jump out to an early lead and Sanchez cruises to his second win of the year.

★★★

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