Cleveland Indians (42-30) at Detroit Tigers (38-36)
Time/Place: 4:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 3.26 ERA) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (4-7, 5.97 ERA)
Carlos Carrasco's last trip to Comerica Park was not a happy one. While his team won easily, Carrasco left the game in the third inning with a hamstring injury and was placed on the disabled list for over a month. He has been effective in four starts since his return, holding opponents to a 3.96 ERA in 25 innings. However, he is 0-2 during that stretch since pitcher wins and losses are dumb stats.
This isn't the same Carlos Carrasco we have seen over the past couple seasons, though. His home run rate has almost doubled since 2015, resulting in a 4.66 FIP that would look more at home in the Tigers' bullpen. His strikeout rate has dropped as well, falling from an elite level (29.6 percent) in 2015 to just above league average in 2016. While his strikeout-to-walk ratio is still hovering around a very palatable 3.50, it isn't close to what it was in 2014 and 2015.
The drop-off in strikeout rate can't be explained easily. His fastball velocity has tailed off slightly since last season, but not enough to raise any red flags. His pitches are moving as sharply as they did in previous years according to PitchFX, and his batted ball profile is otherwise identical. The only plausible explanation appears to be a bit of variance in his release point, which has steadily moved closer to a three-quarters delivery over the past three years.
Whatever the reason, Carrasco hasn't been quite as deadly this season, though the only real imminent regression should be an improvement in his home run rate.
Hitter to fear: Mike Napoli (.429/.529/1.000 in 17 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Jason Kipnis (.148/.172/.185 in 29 plate appearances)
Things didn't go well for Sanchez the last time he faced the Tribe. The Tigers' beleaguered righthander was rocked, allowing seven runs (six earned) on nine hits in just 2 1/3 innings. Eight of the nine Tribe starters reached base against him in that short period, including five of six in the third inning that knocked Sanchez out of the game.
Overall, Sanchez's numbers aren't bad against the Tribe. He has a 3.72 ERA and 3.44 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his career against Cleveland, and has limited Indians hitters to a .641 OPS. Mike Napoli and Yan Gomes are the only hitters to have homered off the once-stingy Venezuelan, and Sanchez has only given up three homers in 11 previous matchups.
The Tigers are either going to need a whale of a game from Anibal Sanchez or the old Carlos Carrasco (i.e. pre-2014 version) to return for a day if they hope to win this one. Both offenses have been clicking on all cylinders lately, but the difference in expected results from today's starters is as vast as they come. With the bullpen still reeling from long outings lately, this one could get ugly.
The Indians make it eight straight over Detroit.
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