I really will miss seeing the Minnesota Twins on Detroit’s schedule. The Tigers have beaten down on the awful Twins’ staff all year, which has proven a pivotal role in keeping the Tigers afloat in the Wild Card race.
The teams will play one more for the road today, with Ervin Santana getting the ball for Minnesota. He has been easily their most effective pitcher on the season, but it will be a tall task facing Detroit’s ace in Justin Verlander. Verlander has a 2.11 ERA and 0.90 WHIP since the start of July, and he looks to deliver one more key win to the Tigers today.
Detroit Tigers (81-70) at Minnesota Twins (55-97)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (14-8, 3.22 ERA) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (7-10, 3.38 ERA)
Ervin Santana has been one of the lone bright spots on the Minnesota staff, having a rock-steady year at the top of their rotation. The right-hander will reach thirty starts for the fifth time in six years, and he has reached at least 2.5 fWAR for the sixth time in his career. The Twins are definitely getting solid returns on the four year, $55 million deal they gave him prior to 2015.
Unfortunately for Santana, his team has found a way to let him down. He’s made two starts against the Tigers this year, holding them to two runs in 12 innings, but got no decision in either game. Given his opponent today, allowing one run may consign him to the same fame.
Santana may be very lucky today if Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez are out of the lineup. Kinsler has a .948 OPS against Santana in 78 career plate appearances, while Martinez has an .854 OPS in 38 career matchups. Minnesota’s ace has handled just about everyone else in Detroit’s lineup over his career.
Hitter to fear: Brian Dozier (because duh)
Hitter to fail: Max Kepler (.171/.237/.171 over the last two weeks)
Brian Dozier is basically an automatic fill-in as the hitter to fear. Don’t be surprised if Verlander grooves him a fastball with the bases empty and Dozier puts it in the left field seats. As for everyone else? Well, they aren’t quite as scary. Kepler and Eduardo Escobar have comined for -1.1 fWAR in the last 14 days alone, while the team is striking out at a 24.3 percent rate this month. Look for Justin to have some very dominant innings today.
The rainout last night sets us up for a crazy day of baseball. The Tigers are fortunate, I guess, that Anibal Sanchez is on the roster and can throw five innings in a row. They’re even more fortunate that nobody in their bullpen has pitched (excepting Mark Lowe) in three days. The Twins will likely be scraping through the bullpen barrel by the time of the night game, which sets the Tigers up for an advantage they must capitalize on. It would probably help to give Verlander more run support than the last time, as well.