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Game 31 Preview: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers

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Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Guthrie face off for the second time this week today at Comerica Park.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals (18-11) at Detroit Tigers (19-11)

Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Royals Review

Media: Fox Sports 1, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (1-2, 6.52 ERA) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (2-3, 5.11 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Guthrie 5 29.0 3.41 3.10 1.55 1.59 5.77 5.45 -0.2
Sanchez 6 37.0 8.51 2.19 1.22 1.16 3.75 3.60 0.7

After a hot start to the Jeremy Guthrie era when he was traded to Kansas City in 2012, things have gone south in a big way. Guthrie was 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 14 starts after coming over from Colorado in 2012, leading the Royals to give him a three-year contract extension. Since then, Guthrie has allowed a 4.24 ERA and 4.64 FIP in 443 1/3 innings with a 29-25 record. With a 95 ERA+, Guthrie has been decidedly below league average despite the best defense in baseball behind him, and Kauffman Stadium's spacious confines haven't stopped him from allowing over a home run per nine innings.

This season, Guthrie has been even worse. He has a 6.52 ERA in five starts, with 36 hits allowed in 29 innings. He has continued to eat innings, but with at least three runs allowed in each start, he hasn't put the Royals in a great position to win. Despite his mediocre performance, the Royals are 3-2 in his outings. Guthrie has gotten six runs or more of support in the three victories, a pace that likely won't continue.

Anibal Sanchez was untouchable through the first six innings of his start against the Royals on May 3, allowing just one single to Paulo Orlando. Sanchez's late inning struggles resurfaced, though, as the Royals tacked on four runs in the seventh and eighth. The Tigers were fortunate to have enough breathing room to withstand the barrage, but have dropped games on similar late-inning meltdowns already this season. Still, it's hard to complain when Sanchez has made a quantum leap from his two-start struggle last month. He has a 3.08 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in his last three starts, along with a 3.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Tigers hitter to fear: Miguel Cabrera (.358/.417/.604 in 60 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Rajai Davis (.190/.190/.238 in 21 plate appearances)

The Tigers have had Guthrie's number throughout the 36-year-old righthander's career. In 23 appearances (20 starts), Guthrie has allowed a 4.84 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. Tigers batters are hitting .308/.353/.460 in 572 plate appearances, and the current roster is batting .309/.358/.498 with 10 home runs. Alex Avila and his 1.093 OPS against Guthrie will be missed -- Avila was placed on the 15-day disabled list this morning -- but there are five other Tigers with an OPS of .832 or better against Guthrie. Miguel Cabrera leads the way, naturally, with four home runs and 14 RBI in 60 plate appearances.

Outlook

Guthrie and Sanchez faced off against one another six days ago in a 6-4 Tigers victory that wasn't as close as the final score indicates. The Tigers jumped all over Guthrie, and there is little reason to expect that today's game will be much different. Guthrie has struggled this season, giving up four runs or more in four of his five starts. He has also had trouble pitching at Comerica Park, allowing an .828 OPS and 4.53 ERA in nine starts. If Sanchez can continue his recent run of success, the Tigers could be in position to sweep tomorrow.

Prediction

The Royals close the gap in the later innings, but the Tigers win their third in a row.

★★★

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