Los Angeles Angels (64-62) at Detroit Tigers (60-66)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Halos Heaven
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Matt Shoemaker (5-9, 4.76 ERA) vs. LHP Randy Wolf (0-1, 3.86 ERA)
The Angels' decision to demote Trenton, Michigan native Matt Shoemaker to the minor leagues seems a bit befuddling without context. Sure, Shoemaker had allowed 13 runs in two starts before getting sent down, but he was coming off a stretch of six appearances with a 2.01 ERA and 25:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31 1/3 innings. Still, his last two starts were pretty bad, and the option allowed the Halos some necessary roster juggling for some infield depth. Shoemaker made one minor league start, a mundane six-inning outing with three unearned runs allowed, and will be recalled prior to today's game.
Overall, Shoemaker hasn't been quite as good in 2015 as he was during a spectacular rookie campaign last season. His walk rate, while still very good at just 6.0 percent, has risen from a 4.4 percent rate in 2014. His strikeout rate has dipped slightly and, worst of all, he has allowed 21 home runs, already 1 1/2 times as many as he gave up last season. The main culprit has been his splitter, one of the more devastating pitches in baseball last year. Shoemaker held opponents to a .163 average and .064 ISO on the splitter in 2014. This season, opponents are hitting just .200 off the splitter, but are hitting for much more power. With seven doubles and nine home runs already this season, Shoemaker is allowing a .443 slugging average off his splitter, good (or bad) enough for a .243 isolated power (ISO).
This doesn't always happen, but Randy Wolf's first start in a Tigers uniform was a great example of exactly why they acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays. The 39-year-old lefthander got into major trouble in the third inning, allowing five consecutive hits that turned into four runs. We have seen some of the Tigers' young starters become unraveled in similar situations and fail to get out of the inning as it spirals out of control. Wolf, on the other hand, was able to eventually get out of trouble and work four more innings, conserving the bullpen and keeping his team in the game. He nibbled at the periphery of the strike zone most of the game, throwing just 13 of 29 first-pitch strikes, but did not walk a batter.
Hitter to fear: Shane Victorino (.269/.296/.615 in 27 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Chris Iannetta (.154/.313/.308 in 16 plate appearances)
A National League starter for most of his 16-year career, Wolf has only made three career starts against the Angels. Most of his meetings with players currently on their roster came in NL showdowns, such as the 55 plate appearances Albert Pujols has against the veteran lefty. Only Erick Aybar was on the Angels' roster the last time Wolf pitched against them, a 12-2 blowout in 2010.
Wolf will see more potent right-handed bats tonight than he did five days ago, but the Angels and Rangers have similar tendencies at the plate. Both teams are relatively patient, ranking in the bottom third in baseball in swing percentage. The Angels tend to chase pitches outside the strike zone more than Texas, but still rank in the bottom half of major league teams. Both clubs have put up subpar numbers against left-handed pitching, with the Angels second-worst in the AL with an 89 wRC+. If Wolf can curtail the big inning this time around, the Tigers just might take the series.
Wolf earns his first win in a Tigers uniform.
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