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Game 143 Preview: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers

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Tigers fans can finally exhale as the Twins come to Detroit to face fan-favorite Daniel Norris.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Okay. Breathe. In and out, in and out. The stress is over, the Orioles are gone. It's time to just sit back and enjoy some wins.

Minnesota Twins (53-90) at Detroit Tigers (76-66)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: Ervin Santana (7-10, 3.58 ERA) vs. Daniel Norris (2-2, 3.94 ERA)

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Santana 158.1 19.1% 6.7% 3.89 2.7
Norris 45.2 19.8% 7.4% 4.09 0.6

It's impossible for a series against the 2016 Twins not to bring a smile to the face of any fan, especially one of a team who needs wins. The fans of the Tigers fit that bill, as Detroit has gone 10-2 against the Twins this year, with a run differential of +27.

The last time Daniel Norris faced the Twins, they punished him for five runs, but the potent Tigers offense absolutely smoked Twins starter Jose Berrios for eight runs. The run support will, unfortunately, be less pronounced against a more experienced starter in Ervin Santana.

Norris is struggling this season, walking more hitters than he should for the number of batters he doesn't strike out. He also throws his fastball four times more than anything else. Batters are teeing off on it, compiling a 143 wRC+, 43 percent above the league average. However, he is pitching on seven days rest and against a less-than-potent offense, giving reasons for hope.

Ervin Santana has a fastball that is nearly as ineffective, but is armed with something Norris does not have: a fantastic slider that has flummoxed batters all season long. Fortunately for the Tigers, power-hitting righties have been more tough on him than left-handed counterparts. Righties are hitting .252/.302/.423 against Santana, as opposed to lefties, who are batting .248/.305/.360. Unfortunately, those same righties strike out 5.3 percent more often.

Hitter to fear: Brian Dozier (.277/.347/.572 this season)
Hitter to fail: Joe Mauer (.203/.288/.339 over the last 15 games)

Brian Dozier is having a really, really, really good year. He is a career .247 hitter, and yet has earned a .277 average on the season. He had never crested 28 home runs before in his career, but yet appears poised to hit the magic No. 40 this year. He has never posted a full-season isolated power (ISO) below .170, a respectable number, but has put that to shame with a .295 ISO this year. That makes even Miguel Cabrera look weak, with a .235 ISO of his own. Dozier is set to be a free agent after 2018, exactly when Ian Kinsler's contract runs out. Just sayin'.

As far as most Tigers fans are concerned, Joe Mauer can go suck a lemon, and it appears that he has. Mired in a terrible cold streak that has only gotten worse, Mauer should be no problem for Tigers pitchers in this series.

Outlook

In the heat of a Wild Card race, there is nothing that could more valuable to the Tigers right now than wins. That fact is made even more pronounced by the unfortunate turn of events that led to dropping two of three to the Orioles, who are the only thing standing between the Tigers and October. This series should be a good time to pad the 'W' column and get a few steps closer to the postseason while also squeezing some quality innings from some of the less dominant starters in this rotation that has been somewhat shaky as of late.

Prediction

Dozier takes one deep, but J.D. Martinez takes one deeper in a high-scoring Tigers win.