Tampa Bay Rays (67-71) at Detroit Tigers (64-74)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: DRaysBay
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jake Odorizzi (6-8, 3.35 ERA) vs. LHP Kyle Lobstein (3-6, 5.02 ERA)
Jake Odorizzi was flying high when he shut the Tigers down in a late July start. The six-inning, one-run outing lowered his ERA to 2.76, the lowest it has been since the All-Star break. There were signs that he would regress a bit -- a 3.39 FIP and .262 BABIP, to name a couple -- but overall, Odorizzi was enjoying a very strong sophomore season in the Rays' rotation.
That regression has arrived. In his last seven starts, Odorizzi has a 4.71 ERA, with four or more runs allowed in three outings. His BABIP during that stretch is .298, raising his season-long BABIP to .273. Odorizzi still has a 3.36 FIP during this stretch thanks to a 43:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but he has allowed five home runs in 42 innings.
Odorizzi has gotten fastball-happy during this recent rough patch, throwing his heater 52 percent of the time. This isn't a high percentage compared to other pitchers, but Odorizzi used his fastball only about 45 percent of the time in the first four months of the season. He relied heavily on his splitter (and still does), but the mid-80s cutter that he threw nearly 18 percent of the time from April to July has all but disappeared. The cutter and splitter have been his two most effective pitches this season, so its curious as to why he has gone away from the former recently.
Kyle Lobstein's return from the disabled list did not go to plan, to say the least. The Cleveland Indians roughed up the 26-year-old lefty five days ago, tagging him for six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. He fell behind early and often, throwing just 10 of 22 first-pitch strikes, and had to rely heavily on his fastball when behind in the count. Already lacking for a swing-and-miss pitch, Lobstein needs to mix his arsenal to be effective, especially against righthanders. Lobstein only threw six changeups in his last start, a number that needs to get much higher to keep opponents off his high-80s heater.
Tigers hitter to fear: J.D. Martinez (.500/.500/.833 in 6 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Alex Avila (.000/.000/.000 in 5 plate appearances)
Odorizzi has given the Tigers fits in two starts, holding them to four runs on 11 hits in 12 2/3 innings. He has 15 strikeouts to three walks, and is holding them to a meager .224 batting average and .269 on-base percentage as a team. J.D. Martinez has had some success, with a triple among his three hits in six at-bats. Ditto Anthony Gose, who has a single and a double in seven at-bats. Miguel Cabrera missed the matchup earlier this season when Odorizzi allowed a run in six innings in a Rays win, but was 1-for-2 with a walk against Odorizzi last season.
The last time the Tigers swept a three-game series, they were still undefeated. In the 42 series since their 6-0 start, the Tigers have played some of the most inconsistent (or just plain bad) baseball in the major leagues. Their wins over the Rays in the past two games have not been pretty, but there have been bright spots amid the rubble. Rajai Davis is showing that he may be worth re-signing for next season, while Drew VerHagen has some solid numbers out of the bullpen. It would be nice to see the young players get more of a chance -- Steven Moya could have pinch hit at some point on Tuesday night -- but anything the Tigers can do to build toward 2016 at this point is a good thing.
Lobstein rebounds and the Tigers sweep.
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