Quick show of hands: who thought the Tigers would hold this high-powered Red Sox to just one run through their first two games this weekend? No one? Yeah, me neither (I have a running bet with a friend on how many runs the Tigers will allow).
They might need to be just as stingy again. The Red Sox will send old friend Chris Sale to the mound on Sunday, and runs will likely be hard to come by for a Tigers offense that doesn’t match up well with Sale’s high octane stuff.
The man responsible for that will be Blaine Hardy, who was one of the Tigers’ best starters in the first half. However, his lone misstep came against these same Red Sox at Fenway Park in early June. The Sox have generally struggled against left-handed pitching this year (relative to their bonkers numbers against righties) and Comerica Park’s cavernous outfield should be a bit more forgiving than Fenway.
Can Hardy deliver a surprising series win over an old foe on Sunday?
Boston Red Sox (69-31) at Detroit Tigers (42-58)
Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Over the Monster
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Chris Sale (10-4, 2.23 ERA) vs. LHP Blaine Hardy (3-2, 3.31 ERA)
Game 101 Pitching Matchup
The Tigers will get their first peek at an old rival on Sunday in Chris Sale. The lanky lefthander has looked like a Cy Young candidate again in 2018, striking out an incredible 37 percent of hitters. Even glimpses of success against him have been rare; Sale has allowed three runs or more in a start just five times, and has gone one run or fewer in 11 starts. Those scanning for even a glimmer of hope won’t find one; he has 10 or more strikeouts in six of his last seven outings (and had nine in the other). The only nugget of hope? Sale still has his usual platoon splits; all 10 of the home runs he has allowed this season have come against right-handed batters. Unfortunately, they still only have a .575 OPS against him.
Remember that time Chris Sale thought someone was stealing signs in the outfield?
Ian Kinsler with perhaps the best troll job of all-time right here. pic.twitter.com/KxXFPAbgd7— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) September 24, 2014
Key matchup: The Tigers vs. plate discipline
This may not be surprising to those who have watched this team day in and day out this season, but the Tigers swing at more pitches outside the strike zone than any team in baseball. While they are fairly average at making contact on such pitches, that might not be the case against Sale, who induced more swings outside the zone than any other qualified AL pitcher. Only a handful of pitchers induce more whiffs on pitches outside the zone than Sale, who also owns the AL’s best swinging strike rate. This has always been the case with Sale, who has fanned nearly 10 batters per nine innings in his career against the Tigers.
Sale strikes out 15 and the Red Sox take the series.