Time/Place: TBD, Progressive Field
SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe
Pitching Matchup: LHP Randy Wolf (0-3, 6.55 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (11-11, 4.47 ERA)
Things have not gone well for Trevor Bauer lately. After a solid first half in which he posted a 3.76 ERA and 3.97 FIP in 105 1/3 innings, August and September have not been so kind. Bauer has a 5.73 ERA and 5.25 FIP since the All-Star break, and the Indians are just 4-7 in his starts. The main cause appears to be the command issues that have plagued him throughout his young career. His walk rate has risen from a passable 9.8 percent in the first half to 11.5 percent after the All-Star break. His strikeout rate has not budged, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio has dropped slightly, from 2.37 to 1.93.
Walks aren't the only problem, though. Bauer has allowed 11 home runs in 11 second half starts, nearly matching his first half total already. His home run rate has risen to 1.66 per nine innings, and opponents are batting .254/.349/.469 in 260 second half plate appearances. Bauer has allowed a 24.1 percent line drive rate in the second half, and his hard contact rate has risen from 28.6 percent to 33.7 percent, which would be one of the highest rates in baseball.
Then there's Randy Wolf. The veteran lefthander has allowed 30 hits in 22 innings since joining the Tigers, and has allowed four runs in three of his four starts. Originally brought in to eat innings, Wolf has done anything but in his last two starts, pitching just eight total frames against the Royals and Rays. While the bullpen should be refreshed after two days off -- and, ideally, a solid start from Justin Verlander -- they could use some length from the 39-year-old southpaw.
Tigers hitter to fear: Ian Kinsler (.353/.400/.588 in 20 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Nick Castellanos (.231/.231/.308 in 13 plate appearances)
The Tigers have only seen Bauer one time this season, and they got their money's worth. Bauer allowed seven runs on nine hits in just three innings on June 22, an Indians loss. The Tigers have handled Bauer well in other matchups as well, scoring 22 runs (21 earned) in 32 innings. They are hitting .321/.400/.534 as a team, including seven home runs. Despite the 5.91 ERA in six starts against Detroit, Bauer has a 2-1 record.
The Indians' somewhat inexplicable struggles against left-handed pitching have continued in 2015. They have a respectable .718 OPS against lefties overall, but are hitting just .244/.306/.380 against left-handed starters. However, the Tribe offense has been heating up lately, scoring over five runs per game since August 25. To no surprise, they are 11-4 during this stretch, but have only picked up 2 1/2 games in the wild card standings. If they can steal another win against Verlander in game one, they may be able to continue their ascent up the standings in game two.
Bauer rebounds and the Indians take the second half of the doubleheader.