When the Tigers were flirting with contention earlier this year, the prevailing thought was that the Cleveland Indians would wake up at some point and run away with the AL Central title. The Tigers (and others) were able to hang close to the Tribe, coming as close as 1 1⁄2 games from first place in June. A rough two-week stretch saw the Tigers tumble to last place, 7 1⁄2 games behind. As we know, they did not recover, and finally decided to sell at the trade deadline.
Meanwhile, the Indians have run away with the division. They were already up by about five games after a strong August, and have since buried the Minnesota Twins. The Tribe have won 18 games in a row — something you will probably hear at least 18 times on Monday’s broadcast — and are now 13 games ahead of the pack in the AL Central. They have even passed the Houston Astros for the best record in the American League.
Needless to say, this one is a bit of a mismatch. The Tribe will send Carlos Carrasco to the mound, an underappreciated righthander who is on pace for a five-win season. The Tigers will give Myles Jaye his first career start. It’s basically David vs. Goliath, if David had a $200 million payroll full of bad contracts and a slingshot that probably doesn’t work.
Detroit Tigers (60-82) at Cleveland Indians (87-56)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Progressive Field
SB Nation site: Let’s Go Tribe
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Myles Jaye (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (14-6, 3.53 ERA)
Game 143 Pitching Matchup
Carlos Carrasco has been somewhat of an all-or-nothing pitcher throughout his career. He showed flashes of brilliance early on, but was mostly unable to harness his immense raw potential. A shift to the bullpen and change in his delivery caused the light bulb to go on, and he has been one of the best starters in the American League ever since. Only five AL pitchers have amassed more fWAR than Carrasco since the start of 2014, and all of them have thrown at least 80 more innings (teammate Corey Kluber is 200 innings (and 9.2 WAR) ahead of Carrasco during that span).
Carrasco still has a tendency to fall apart at times, though. He has given up five runs in four separate starts since the All-Star break, yet still has a 3.67 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 68 2⁄3 innings. He’ll go out and give up five runs to the Yankees — something he did on August 6 — and follow that up with eight shutout innings and 10 strikeouts in his next start. He has been far more Jekyll than Hyde, as his overall numbers suggest, but there are still moments where games will go sideways on him.
This is typical for Carrasco, though. His numbers are very close to what he managed last year, save for a slight drop in his home run rate. He has thrown his slider a little more often than usual, but has had seasons with a usage rate north of 20 percent before. His ground ball rate is the lowest of his career, and he is generating a few more lazy fly balls and pop ups. More importantly, he is still striking out a boatload of hitters without allowing too many walks.
Key matchup: Tigers hitters vs. getting anything off of Carrasco
The Tigers owned Carrasco early in his career. They scored 13 runs off of him in just two matchups back in 2013, and were even able to knock him around a bit in 2014 and 2015.
Since then? Nothing. Carrasco gave up just one run in 17 2⁄3 innings against the Tigers last season, and has a 2.14 ERA in five meetings this year. He has racked up 50 strikeouts in 51 1⁄3 innings during that span. Worse yet, the current Tigers roster is hitting just .178/.209/.209 against Carrasco since the start of 2015. Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and Nicholas Castellanos have all been held to an OPS south of .500 in roughly 30 plate appearances apiece. Carrasco has been weirdly inconsistent at home this year, but has a 1.90 ERA with 50 strikeouts in his last 42 2⁄3 innings.
The Tigers win because baseball is weird.