Minnesota Twins (78-75) at Detroit Tigers (72-81)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Pitching Matchup: RHP Tyler Duffey (4-1, 3.15 ERA) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (13-10, 5.21 ERA)
Tyler Duffey is in uncharted territory. After eight very successful starts against eight different teams, Duffey will finally face a team for the second time. He was very successful in his start against the Tigers on September 14, holding them to one run in 6 1/3 innings, but the Tigers had their chances. They racked up seven hits against Duffey and left 10 runners on base in the entire game, including six in scoring position within the first six innings. Duffey was far more dominant in his last start, holding the Los Angeles Angels to three hits in seven shutout innings.
Facing a team for the second time will be difficult, but Duffey has been on a roll lately. He has a 1.35 ERA and 22:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his last three starts, and is holding opponents to a .296 on-base percentage in the seven starts after a rough debut against the Toronto Blue Jays on August 5. Opponents are hitting just .218 against his fastball this year and inducing whiffs at a 18.4 percent rate with his curveball. The only knock on his résumé? Lefties are batting .282 with a .358 on-base percentage against him this year.
At this point, Tigers fans are counting down the days until Alfredo Simon is a free agent. Simon, who leads the team in wins and innings pitched, had arguably his worst start of the season six days ago. He allowed eight runs on 13 hits against the Kansas City Royals, who won a 10-3 game that probably wasn't even that close. He left a number of pitches up in the strike zone, but the splitter was especially problematic.
Hitter to fear: Kurt Suzuki (.462/.500/1.000 in 14 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Joe Mauer (.154/.214/.231 in 14 plate appearances)
Simon has not had much success against the Twins, allowing 11 runs (nine earned) on 24 hits in 16 1/3 innings. The Twins are batting .343 with a .529 slugging percentage against him this season, but have yet to homer off the 34-year-old righthander. Kurt Suzuki has the best career numbers against Simon, hitting .462 with a .500 on-base percentage. Oddly, big names like Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, and Brian Dozier are a combined 4-for-33.
Last night's loss was a major hit to the wild card hopes even though they didn't lose any ground. They are 1 1/2 games behind the Houston Astros and half a game behind the Angels, who are both chasing the Texas Rangers in the AL West. The Twins should benefit from a season-ending three-game series against a Royals squad that has already clinched the AL Central, while the Angels still have four games in Texas. However, if the Tigers can steal another game or two this weekend, it would put the Twins in a very bad spot heading into the final week of the season.
Simon battles Duffey to a draw but the Twins pull out a late win.