Series Preview – Detroit Tigers vs. Toronto Blue Jays
The Tigers have moved on from the A.L. Central foes for the time being, and set their sights on a run in the A.L. East. The next two weeks will include the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees. Beating these teams will allow the Tigers to dispel any doubts about the team as a whole. First stop: Toronto. This is the first meeting between the Tigers and Blue Jays this season, and the Jays will try to win without the help of Jose Bautista. After starting strong, the Jays have faded recently, especially with the resurgence of the Yankees. They will be fortunate enough to escape without seeing Justin Verlander, though, who threw his second career no-hitter against Toronto in 2011.
Friday – 7/27/12
Rick Porcello vs. Carlos Villanueva
Rick hasn’t been as crisp recently, with a 4.67 ERA over his last three starts, and two no-decisions to show for it. He’ll hope to get back under control here, and show the team that they shouldn’t look to add yet another starting pitcher for the stretch run. He’s only had average success against the Blue Jays, though, with an ERA of almost four. It’ll be up to the Tigers’ offense to put up runs to back any effort he may put forth. It’ll be hard, for sure, because most of the current Toronto lineup is likely to score at least one hit throughout the game. It’ll be up to the defense to make sure those hits don’t become more.
The Toronto rotation has been struggling this season, but Villanueva has been a surprising treat. His ERA is under three, he’s getting run support when he pitches, and he’s going fairly deep into games. He’ll be looking for his fourth win in a row, which is entirely possible, as he has a career 2.60 ERA against the Tigers. That alone should be enough to keep the Blue Jays on top in this game. The only problem for him is that it’s easy to have a low ERA when only half a team has ever seen you in the equivalent of one game’s worth of at-bats. For a full game, it’s hard to believe that all the bats will be kept quiet. So this game could end up being much closer than either team hopes.
Saturday – 7/28/12
Anibal Sanchez vs. Henderson Alvarez
We have finally arrived at Sanchez’s first start as a Tiger. After being traded from the Marlins for a prospect-laden package, Sanchez is looked at as the pitcher to solidify the rotation, provide five-man depth, and give the Tigers a legitimate shot at winning each and every game, despite what the other facets of the team might be doing. He was pretty good in his last three starts with the Marlins, and he suffered a lot from lack of run support in Miami. He had one start against the Blue Jays during interleague play this year, which ended in a 3 1/3-inning performance. He’ll need to drastically improve on that. At least this time he’ll have an offense that can provide support.
Alvarez has been struggling this season, especially in his few most recent starts, where his ERA is up to 7.41. He’s never faced the Tigers before, but with his recent poor starts certainly bode well for Detroit. If Sanchez can put together even a remotely okay start, then the Tigers shouldn’t have much trouble coming out on top.
Sunday – 7/29/12
Doug Fister vs. Brett Cecil
Despite giving up an awful lot of hits in his last start in Cleveland, Fister has still put together a pretty great stretch in the month of July. Hopefully he’ll be able to continue that in this game. Unfortunately, he’s never had any success against Toronto, with an 4.79 ERA and no wins against them. But only Rajai Davis and Jeff Mathis have any real success against him, so perhaps when things are said and done Fister can find his first bit of success in Canada.
Cecil is another Toronto pitcher that hasn’t found much success this season. His season ERA is just under six, while in his last few starts his ERA is over six. He was decent in his seven innings of work against the Tigers, though, walking away with no decisions and a 2.57 ERA. He’ll have to bring that A-game in this game, if he perhaps wants to turn his season around. The biggest problem for the Tigers is that no one has had any decent success against him, so Cecil stands a very good chance to bring his numbers down.
Game 1: Blue Jays
Game 2: Tigers
Game 3: Tigers
Final: Tigers win series 2-1
Give the Blue Jays game one. Nothing against Porcello, but Villanueva has done really good work against Detroit, and given his numbers this season, there’s no reason to think he’ll do anything less in this game. Sanchez, while unproven in Detroit, has done significantly better this season than Alvarez, and that could be just what he needs to give Detroit the win. As for game three, I won’t bet against Fister. I think his last start was an anomaly for the stretch run, and the previous three starts will be much more indicative of what he’ll do in August and September.