American League Championship Series – Game 4 Preview

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American League Championship Series

            10/12/11: Game 4 – Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers

            Matt Harrison vs. Rick Porcello

 

            The Tigers held on to win in Game 3 last night behind a remarkable outing by Doug Fister.  Today they need to keep it rolling, and need another outstanding performance by Rick Porcello.  Rick last appeared in relief during Game 1, after two separate rain delays knocked Justin Verlander out of the game after only four innings of work.  Rick pitched two clean innings to keep the Tigers in the game, but they ultimately fell.  Will he be able to give the Tigers a nice and strong outing to tie up the series?

Rick Porcello has done very well against the Rangers this season.  Ian Kinsler, David Murphy, and Michael Young are the only Rangers with hits off of him this year.  That means two thirds of the Ranger lineup couldn’t manage a hit when they faced Porcello.  Which bodes very, very well for Rick.  Porcello is ground ball pitcher, which is probably why the biggest bats in the Rangers’ lineup are hitless for the year.  If you’re facing a lot of guys who like to really hit all around the park, getting those batters to roll over the top of balls and ground out harmlessly is exactly what you need.  It keeps hits and runs off the board, and makes sure that the offense can roll.  This was, in theory, what he also wanted to do against the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALDS, but the Yankees hit him around to the tune of eight hits and four runs.  Hopefully, he can be a bit more like that relief outing in Game 1 and really keep the Rangers down.

Matt Harrison, like Colby Lewis in Game 3, has faced the Tigers this season, and has been hit around by the Tigers this season.  Avila, Cabrera, Martinez, Peralta, Jackson, and Raburn all have hits off Harrison.  Most of those have more than one, which means you can bet this offense is going to come out swinging today.  If two thirds of the lineup can get hits off of the starter, then you’re looking at some real damage early in the game that hopefully Porcello and the bullpen can work with to keep a lead and get the win.  This looks even more promising when considering the fact that Harrison has good, but not great, postseason numbers thus far.  In one start and one relief appearance, he’s given up three runs on six hits.  If the Tigers can manage even that much offense against him, this series may go into Game 5 tied at two.  Harrison is also a third left-handed pitcher in the Texas rotation.  Which means there will be a lot of right-handed bats in the lineup today.  In fact, it would be probable that only Avila will be batting left-handed.

It is, however, currently raining in Detroit (as I look outside the window two blocks from Comerica Park).  The weather is miserable, which may induce a rain delay of some sort in the coming hours.  Hopefully not, but considering the game will start just as I’m leaving work, and it’ll probably take a solid hour and a half to get home, I wouldn’t mind a bit of a delay.  Let’s just hope that we see baseball today and keep things rolling right into Game 5.

Potential Lineups:

TEX—

  1. Kinsler (2B)
  2. Andrus (SS)
  3. Hamilton (CF)
  4. Young (1B)
  5. Beltre (3B)
  6. Napoli (DH)
  7. Cruz (RF)
  8. Torrealba (C)
  9. Murphy (LF)

DET—

  1. Jackson (CF)
  2. Santiago (2B)
  3. Young (LF)
  4. Cabrera (1B)
  5. Martinez (DH)
  6. Avila (C)
  7. Peralta (SS)
  8. Raburn (RF)
  9. Inge (3B)

Given that Murphy is 3/3 against Porcello this year, he’ll definitely get a start.  Where he’s batting in the lineup, however, remains to be seen.  I think that Torrealba did well enough yesterday to at least get a second start today.  Ron Washington, unlike Jim Leyland, seems to like having a more or less consistent lineup from day to day.  Which means 1-7 in that lineup are going to remain the same.  Where Torrealba bats and where Murphy bats will be the only real questions about this lineup.

The Tigers have already announced that Delmon Young will get the start today against the left-handed Harrison.  Which is, I think, good news for Cabrera and Martinez, who will get put back in their normal spots in the lineup.  The big question (and the same question that is literally plaguing this lineup every single solitary game) is where will the auxiliary players bat?  Personally, with Raburn’s bat right now, I’d love to see him getting on in front of Young and Cabrera by batting second.  But there’s also something to be said for that kind of bat at the bottom of the lineup, to make it lethal no matter what inning it is and provide no rest for a pitcher.  Of course, after the 3-run shot in Game 2, Raburn would also be effective behind Martinez, batting sixth.  Avila could be pushed down to eighth, due to his offensive struggles, and at least the lineup would appear solid with 3-7.  But ultimately, who knows.  I don’t think Don Kelly will get a start today, but stranger things have happened.  Maybe if Martinez is actually hurting, Don Kelly will be our designated hitter today (*cringe*).

Keys to the Game:

TEX—The batters need to pay attention to Porcello’s pitches, and really try to get under them as much as possible.  Considering how much Porcello has kept them off the bases, they will need to make sure that he can’t command his pitches to induce ground balls.  Staying patient, having good at bats, and really trying to get under pitches whenever possible (without popping them up) will be the only way to make sure that hits are plentiful and runs come with them.  Of course, given how good the top of the lineup is at just getting on base, and their base-running speed, letting anyone on base could be devastating for Porcello.  Harrison also needs to pitch just well enough to turn things over to the bullpen.  After a day off, Ogando, Adams, and Feliz should be rested and ready to go in this contest.  If they come in with the lead, or in a close game of any kind, then the Tigers’ offense runs the risk of being shut down completely, which will allow the Texas offense a perfect chance to take control of the game and come out of it with a 3-1 series lead.

DET—Harrison is certainly going to get into trouble, as long as the Tigers’ hitters show up to play.  With so many of the bats in this lineup coming with hits off Harrison this year, it’ll be more of a challenge to not rough him up.  That was the ultimate key to last night’s game, and it applies again today: hit the starter early and often.  If the Tigers can put up runs in the first four innings, then they can a) knock Harrison out, and b) take a lead into the later innings when Texas brings in their lethal bullpen.  With any luck, they can really exhaust Harrison early, bringing the bullpen in like in Game 2 (the third inning).  That way, pitchers like Ogando, Adams, and Feliz will have to throw longer, ideally making them unavailable again for Game 5 and giving Verlander a chance to bring the pain.  Porcello’s sharpness and the Tiger bats having a second consecutive great game will power the Tigers to an easy win against Harrison.

Predictions:

If the starting pitchers have anything to say about how this game goes, Porcello has the much better chance of making a statement.  Harrison is a number four starter in this rotation for a reason, and he’s certainly the kind of pitcher the Tigers love to see.  It’s just so hard to believe that when six of nine hitters in a lineup have hits off of you (in at most two outings against you this year) that you won’t get hit around a little.  I think the Tigers chase Harrison early with enough of a lead to keep the game rolling smoothly in their favor until the very end.  Verlander and Wilson will be duking it out tomorrow in a tied contest, 2-2.

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  1. Pingback: Before Visiting The Sportsbook - New Content Added: Week of October 9th

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