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Game 84 Preview: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians

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Anibal Sanchez looks for redemption in a spot start against the first-place Indians.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It's a small sample of innings, but Anibal Sanchez's 2016 splits between the rotation and the bullpen make one thing abundantly clear: he should not be starting this game. In 12 starts this season, Sanchez has a 6.71 ERA and 1.65 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .291/.375/.537 with 16 home runs against him, and he has a 1.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Only Baltimore's Ubaldo Jimenez has a higher ERA in as many innings this year.

Meanwhile, Sanchez has been serviceable in eight appearances out of the bullpen. He has a 2.84 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 12 2/3 innings of work. His strikeout rate has dipped, but he has also lowered his walk rate, resulting in a 4.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has not allowed a home run in relief this season, and opponents are hitting for a relatively empty .283 batting average.

These splits may not be gospel. Sanchez has only faced 51 batters in relief this season, and a fair handful of those have come in low leverage situations. The downturn in his strikeout rate is a bit of a red flag. But his velocity is up in a relief role, which may explain why opponents have not been able to square him up yet. Putting a $16 million pitcher in the bullpen is a tough pill to swallow, but Sanchez hasn't shown any hope of being an effective starter in 2016.

That said, the Tigers' hands are tied today as they go for their first win of the season against the Indians. Can they snap the streak at 10?

Detroit Tigers (44-39) at Cleveland Indians (50-32)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Progressive Field
SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (5-8, 6.05 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-2, 2.56 ERA)

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Sanchez 74.1 17.9 10.0 5.79 0.0
Carrasco 63.1 25.4 6.1 3.99 0.9

Oh, lovely. The Tigers last faced Indians righthander Carlos Carrasco 10 days ago, and all the 29-year-old Venezuelan did was strike out seven while throwing a four-hit shutout. The outing was his best of the season thus far, and proved that he is well past the hamstring strain that he suffered against the Tigers on April 24. Carrasco missed over a month of action after that injury, and his first two starts weren't particularly sharp. Since then? He owns a 1.52 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings.

The strikeouts are of particular note, as Carrasco was struggling to put hitters away earlier this season. He has 21 strikeouts in his last two starts, elevating his season-long strikeout rate from 22.1 percent at that point to 25.4 percent. He still has a way to go, seeing as he fanned nearly 30 percent of the batters he faced in 2015. If we look back even further, Carrasco has at least six strikeouts in each of his past five starts.

While he has yet to allow a run against the Tigers this season, strikeouts have not precluded their offense from scoring in bunches off of Carrasco. He posted a 5.00 ERA in three starts against them in 2015, allowing 10 runs on 21 hits while striking out 20. For his career, Carrasco has a 5.25 ERA against the Tigers, and they are batting a robust .317/.366/.485 against him.

Hitter to fear: Mike Napoli (.400/.526/.933 in 19 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Jason Kipnis (.167/.188/.200 in 32 plate appearances)

Things have not gone well for Sanchez against the Tribe this season, to say the least. He is 0-3 with an 8.79 ERA in three starts against them this season, including a loss in his last start 10 days ago. The Tribe are hitting .310/.385/.552 against him, resulting in a 1.67 WHIP. Mike Napoli has been one of the more consistent pests, batting .289/.372/.605 in 10 games against Detroit this season. Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor have both homered off Sanchez this year.

Outlook

While every matchup against the Indians should be prefaced with the question "Can the Tigers hit their starter?" it rings true more than ever in this game. Sanchez's last attempt at being a major league starter failed miserably, with the Indians taking a 2-0 lead before the Tigers even came to the plate. It was moot in the end, however, as Carrasco pitched a four-hit shutout. The Tigers have had some success against him in the past, and will need to channel that if they hope to pull out a win on Tuesday.

Yeah, about that...

Prediction

Cleveland makes it 11 in a row over Detroit.

★★★

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