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Game 17 Preview: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers

Shane Greene will look to shake off a rough start in his last outing against Carlos Carrasco and the Indians.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

If there is one player that perfectly encapsulates the 2016 Detroit Tigers so far, it's Shane Greene. Despite an early stumble in his first start of the season, Greene looked the part of a world-beater, holding the Pittsburgh Pirates to a pair of runs while striking out seven in six innings. We praised his efforts, pointing out that he looked much more like the pitcher that the Tigers traded for in 2014, and gazed hopefully towards the rest of the schedule.

His second start was a crash landing, similar to the one the Tigers are currently going through. They scored 49 runs in their first eight games, racing out to an 8-2 record. In their last eight games, however, the Tigers have only scored 20 runs and have been shut out twice. The offense has fallen apart, led by the puzzling disappearance of Miguel Cabrera. The struggles are starting to affect the clubhouse atmosphere, and for the moment, no one knows which way is up.

There is still a lot of baseball left, though. Momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher, as the old cliché goes, and Greene has shown that he's capable of making MLB hitters look silly. He faces a tough task on Sunday in Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, who could push his way to stardom with a big year in 2016.

Cleveland Indians (8-7) at Detroit Tigers (8-8)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-0, 2.79 ERA) vs. RHP Shane Greene (1-1, 7.15 ERA)

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Carrasco 19.1 23.4 6.5 4.64 0.0
Greene 11.1 18.4 14.3 3.56 0.2

There aren't many pitchers in the American League you would rather not face on the heels of a three-game losing streak than Carlos Carrasco. The 29-year-old Venezuelan endured five years of demotions, injuries, and a 2012 season spent with the Tommy John fairy. Following Tommy John, Carrasco's velocity improved, and he started to hone his command. A dominant 10-start stretch to close the 2014 season hinted that he was on the verge of a breakout, and his 2015 season cemented that notion.

At least, it did to those paying attention. Carrasco's 14-12 record and 3.63 ERA don't seem all that impressive on the whole, but he finished fourth in MLB with a 29.6 percent strikeout rate, ninth with a 5.02 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and his 2.84 FIP was the third-lowest mark in the American League.

So far in 2016, the tables have turned. Carrasco's 2.79 ERA in three starts is Cy Young caliber -- he's my dark horse pick to take home the award this year -- but his 4.67 FIP seems more at home in the Tigers clubhouse. The big reason for the jump in FIP is his home run rate, which is elevated after the Boston Red Sox took him deep three times in his first start of the year. A 3.39 xFIP tells a more accurate story, along with the two runs allowed in his last 14 1/3 innings.

Tigers hitter to fear: Miguel Cabrera (.375/.444/.542 in 27 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Victor Martinez (.286/.304/.381 in 23 plate appearances)

The silver lining in this situation is that the Tigers have absolutely feasted on Carrasco's pitching over the years. As a club, they are hitting .346/.396/.531 in 15 meetings, leading to a 6.29 ERA. Unlike Corey Kluber, however, Carrasco still struggled with the Tigers in 2015. They tagged him for five runs in 4 1/3 innings in an April matchup, and it wasn't until his third start against them that he found a groove -- eight innings, two earned runs, and seven strikeouts.


Seriously, baseball gods? The Tigers have faced a gauntlet of good starting pitching so far this season, with a Francisco Liriano scratched start serving as their only "break" during this rough early schedule. One would hope that Carrasco's past demons against the Tigers will pay off, but his recent outings -- 13 strikeouts to four walks with eight hits allowed in his last two starts -- suggests otherwise. Shane Greene has a whale of a task ahead of him if the Tigers offense can't get going early.


Greene struggles again and the Indians sweep.


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