Boston Red Sox (49-61) at Detroit Tigers (53-56)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Over the Monster
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Wade Miley (8-9, 4.55 ERA) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (10-6, 4.55 ERA)
When Wade Miley is on, his heavy two-seam fastball and varied arsenal lead to plenty of weakly-hit ground ball outs. His changeup and curveball both have a ground ball rate of 60 percent this season, while the slider and two-seamer aren't far behind in the high-40s. He has generated at least 10 ground balls in 12 of his 22 starts, and opponents are batting just .222 on such plays. His defense has only turned eight double plays behind him this season, but he has started at least 15 twin-killings in each of the past three seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Miley produced 4.1 WAR for the Diamondbacks as a rookie in 2012, but has only been worth 4.5 WAR in the three seasons since then. His ERA, while still solid at 3.55 in 2013, has climbed above 4.30 in the last two seasons. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has steadily declined to a career-low 1.92 this season, in large part thanks to a rising walk rate. Miley is walking a career-high 8.8 percent of batters faced, and his splits against righties are even worse. Miley has walked 10.3 percent of the right-handed batters he has faced this year, and they are hitting .269/.344/.441 against him. This includes 11 of the 12 home runs he has allowed this season.
Alfredo Simon has been bothered by a nagging groin injury suffered the last time he faced these Red Sox, which led the Tigers to push his start back several days earlier this week. The injury resulted in Simon's lowest fastball velocity of the season in his previous start, but that didn't prevent him from slowing down the Baltimore Orioles for 5 2/3 innings in his last start. He only allowed two hits, both two-run homers, and walked three. Simon relied heavily on his splitter in that start, throwing it 44 times in just 85 pitches. Oddly, the junk ball approach actually led to more flyouts than groundouts.
Hitter to fear: David Ortiz (.250/.500/.375 in 12 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Pablo Sandoval (.167/.444/.167 in 9 plate appearances)
Prior to his injury-riddled start in Baltimore, Simon had put together his best effort in months against Boston on July 25. He held the Red Sox to just one run on five hits in six innings, with four strikeouts and two walks. At just 81 pitches, Simon likely would have kept pitching if it weren't for his injury. David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez were two of the biggest threats against Simon in that game, each reaching base twice. Rookie catcher Blake Swihart also hit a triple.
This seems like a solid matchup for the Tigers on paper. Miley has struggled with his command against right-handed batters, and they hit for a fair amount of power (.172 ISO) against him. The Tigers will likely run seven or eight right-handed batters out in their starting lineup, giving them a sizable platoon advantage. Tigers' righties are batting .291/.361/.458 against left-handed pitching this year, though a decent part of that production comes from Miguel Cabrera's 1.089 OPS against lefties. Meanwhile, Simon continues his solid production (4-2, 3.43 ERA) at home.
The Tigers narrowly win a high-scoring game that takes far too long to complete.
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