Detroit Tigers (57-61) at Chicago Cubs (67-50)
Time/Place: 8:05 p.m., Wrigley Field
SB Nation blog: Bleed Cubbie Blue
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Daniel Norris (2-2, 4.24 ERA) vs. LHP Jon Lester (8-8, 3.21 ERA)
Earlier this season, Cubs fans were concerned about Jon Lester. Chicago's $155 million man was eating innings, but his ERA was hovering around four. His ERA jumped as high as 4.25 in June following a start against the Tigers at Comerica Park, and rose above four again later in the month. Since then? Lester has been his usual self. The 31-year-old lefthander has a 2.20 ERA and 2.09 FIP in his last 11 starts. He has worked seven innings or more in eight of those 11 outings, and has 79 strikeouts to 16 walks in 73 2/3 innings.
Between Lester's recent surge and the Cubs' place in the National League standings -- they are eight games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and three games up in the wild card race -- the Cubs are faced with an interesting dilemma. Assuming they win one of the two NL wild card spots, who starts that one-and-done game? Lester is the team's highest-paid player and their "ace," but righthander Jake Arrieta has had the stronger season overall. If Lester continues pitching like this, it will probably be him, but Arrieta could sneak into the conversation if Lester falters at any point again.
Daniel Norris didn't have the strongest start seven days ago, allowing four runs (three earned) in 6 1/3 innings, but there were impressive moments. He battled through a couple of tough spots in the fourth and fifth innings, ultimately working into the seventh before he got the hook. By keeping the score close -- the Tigers were down 4-2 when he left -- his offense was able to mount a late comeback and get the win.
Hitter to fear: Miguel Cabrera (.552/.667/.793 in 39 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Anthony Gose (.125/.125/.250 in 9 plate appearances)
Jon Lester has struggled in his career against the Tigers, allowing a .525 ERA and .895 OPS in 10 meetings. However, Comerica Park seems to be his personal house of horrors, as he owns a 6.35 ERA in five career starts there. He has allowed 14 earned runs in 30 innings against the Tigers at Fenway Park, a more respectable 4.20 ERA. The current Tigers roster has had no trouble with him, though, batting .337/.412/.570 with six home runs in 196 plate appearances.
Oops. My bad. https://t.co/HLmac7YVeu— Daniel Norris (@DanielNorris18) August 18, 2015
Lester cruises and the Cubs split the series.
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