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Game 77 Preview: Miami Marlins at Detroit Tigers

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Mike Pelfrey returns to the rotation as the Tigers start a two-game series against the Marlins.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Marlins (41-35) at Detroit Tigers (38-38)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Fish Stripes
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Adam Conley (4-4, 3.56 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (1-7, 4.91 ERA)

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Conley 83.1 21.2 9.8 3.75 1.1
Pelfrey 80.2 11.0 8.5 5.34 0.1

Adam Conley sounds like the name of that guy you went to high school with who remembers everything you did but you can't recall for the life of you -- just wait, younger readers, this will happen at some point in your life -- but I promise he's a major league pitcher on an actual baseball team. And even though you have never heard of him, he's pretty good.

Conley was drafted by the Marlins in the second round (!) of the 2011 draft. A lefty out of Washington State, Conley moved quickly through the lower minors, reaching Double-A in 2013. He missed a couple months in 2014 with a bout of elbow tendonitis, but avoided the operating table in an otherwise forgettable season (statistically speaking) for the young lefty. A strong 2015 season in Triple-A New Orleans led to a call-up in June, then a permanent spot in the rotation in mid-August.

Now, 26 starts into Conley's career, there appears to be some real potential here. He has a 3.65 ERA and 3.79 FIP in 150 1/3 innings and has a modest 21.1 percent strikeout rate. Opponents are hitting .240 against him this season, resulting in less than a hit per inning allowed. He doesn't have high octane stuff -- his fastball averages just 91.4 miles per hour -- but he comes from a near-sidearm angle and has a lethal changeup that has baffled right-handed hitters so far in his career. Righties are batting just .227 off the changeup and .195 against his slider, pitches he relies on heavily against all hitters.

The one big knock against Conley so far has been his command. He is walking almost 10 percent of the hitters he has faced this season, and his overall results have been highly variable. For instance, he pitched 7 2/3 no-hit innings against the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this year, and has five scoreless starts under his belt already. Then, there are outings like June 12, when he gave up six runs (five earned) on 11 hits in five innings. There isn't much rhyme or reason to these splits, so the Tigers need to hope they catch the 26-year-old lefty on a bad day.

Hitter to fear: Giancarlo Stanton (.474/.565/.895 in 23 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Jeff Mathis (.333/.333/.333 in 3 plate appearances)

Oh goodness. Mike Pelfrey doesn't have much experience against much of this young Marlins roster, but the two veterans he has faced multiple times in the past have absolutely abused him. Both Martin Prado and Giancarlo Stanton are hitting better than .450 with slugging averages over .860 (!) in 23-plus plate appearances against Pelfrey. Stanton has homered twice off of the former Met, and Prado has six doubles in 22 at-bats. Chris Johnson and Jeff Mathis are the only two other Marlins players that have faced Pelfrey in the past.

Outlook

The Marlins seem like a bit of a surprise at 41-35, but how they came to be six games over .500 is quite interesting. One would assume that this record is propped up by playing the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies so often, but the opposite has been true; Miami is just 4-10 against the Braves and Phillies this year, and a combined 20-14 against NL teams above the .500 mark. This includes winning three of four against the Chicago Cubs, a feat they accomplished at home last weekend.

Meanwhile, the momentum the Tigers generated at home in recent weeks was halted by the Cleveland Indians last weekend. With a day off to regroup, we could see a better effort from a Tigers team still within striking distance of the AL wild card, but as we have seen all too often this year, their starting pitcher puts them at a substantial disadvantage in this game.

Prediction

The Tigers lose their fourth in a row.

★★★

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