Series Preview – St. Louis Cardinals vs. Detroit Tigers
After winning two games in every interleague series this season, the Tigers are looking to turn a two-game streak into a real win streak. They’ll have to go through the World Champion Cardinals to do it, though. The Cards are currently third in the N.L. Central, but they were only two games out not long ago, and in the lead not long before that. Which means St. Louis is just itching to have that one good week that puts them at the top of the division again. Who will come out on top in this series?
Tuesday – 6/19/12
Lance Lynn vs. Justin Verlander
In just his second season in the majors, Lance Lynn is quickly becoming a major player for this team. In 13 starts he is 10-2 with a 2.42 ERA. Those are Cy Young numbers, easy, and right now his only competition for the position of “Best Pitcher” in the N.L. is R.A. Dickey with the Mets. If Lynn can keep up even a fraction of this rate through the rest of the season, the Cards are going to be contending for the division title again in no time at all. He’s never pitched against the Tigers before, and Prince Fielder has only had one at-bat against him. So there’s no history between these two teams. In an American League park, where the pitcher can focus on his first job, Lynn is going to just have to confuse these hitters through enough innings to allow the offense to score some runs.
He’ll have his fair share of trouble, though, because opposite him will be Justin Verlander. While J.V. does have some elevated numbers against the Cardinals (2-1 with a 5.50 ERA), he’s still one of the best pitchers in the game, and not just this year, but consistently. He had a little setback in late May/early June, but he’s winning again, and hungry to put together a summer that rivals his campaign from 2011. The ballooned numbers also came against a Cardinals team that included Albert Pujols and a healthy Lance Berkman. Only three current Cardinals have ever seen and/or hit Verlander before. So in a way, it’s a battle of two pitchers that essentially have fresh slates against the opponents. It should be a pitching duel unlike any seen in a long time.
Wednesday – 6/20/12
Jake Westbrook vs. Rick Porcello
Westbrook has seen a lot of the Tigers since 2001. He pitched for the Cleveland Indians from 2001-2010, before heading to the Cardinals for the last two seasons. In that time, Detroit has knocked him around to the tune of a 6-8 record and 5.58 ERA. While many of those years were well before anyone on the current roster was present and accounted for, there is still at least half a roster’s worth of current players with some serious numbers. Especially Miguel Cabrera, who’s hitting .714 against him. Prince hits .364 and Austin Jackson .400. There are plenty of bats in this lineup that are just waiting to tear Westbrook apart, and if J.V. loses on Tuesday, they will be looking for revenge.
Rick Porcello has been getting a bit better over his last few starts, but he still needs a couple more to really gauge where he’s at. Rick’s only had one start against St. Louis, and he managed to win it. He even kept the ERA to 1.59. Of course, like Justin, it’s been a while, and he’s faced almost none of the current roster members. So it’ll be a challenge for Rick to get through the lineup in this game. Rick’s only problem right now is that he’s not going nearly deep enough into games. Again, in his last start, Rick only got through five innings. Granted, the last couple outings were in National League ballparks in close games where a switch may be all you can do to stay competitive. But he still needs to get deeper.
Thursday – 6/21/12
Kyle Lohse vs. Jacob Turner
Lohse has been with the Cardinals for a long time now, but before that he pitched from 2001-2006 with the Minnesota Twins. That wouldn’t account for any success against the current Detroit roster, but it does account for his success against the team. (He pitched against them in their worst years.) Lohse is 7-6 with a 5.95 ERA against Detroit. Luckily, for the Tigers, Miguel Cabrera has two home runs against Kyle, so this could be a very good game for him to get loose in.
The Casey Crosby experiment failed, and the Tigers once again need someone to spot start in the rotation. Of course, Duane Below was overlooked again, because for some reason management hates him and refuses to let him start a game. So instead they decided that it was time to give #1 pitching prospect his first major league start of the year. Turner has zero experience against the Cardinals, and only three starts lifetime, with an 8.53 career ERA. He wasn’t in the big leagues much last season, but in that time he hardly looked like the highly-touted prospect that he’s been made out to be since he was drafted. Hopefully another season in the minors gave him enough work to produce the results the organization is waiting for.
Game 1: Tigers
Game 2: Tigers
Game 3: Cardinals
Final: Tigers win series 2-1
I refuse to bet against Verlander, no matter how good his opposition is at any given point in the year. And Westbrook is just terrible against Detroit, so Porcello may finally be able to right his own ship this season. Turner just doesn’t have the experience (or, from what I’ve seen, the talent) to successfully win just yet.