Series Preview – Detroit Tigers vs. Cincinnati Reds
The Tigers are disappointing me to no end right now. After losing like that to New York and Cleveland on the last home stand, it’s hard to believe they even have a fan base left. The mainstream media isn’t helping either. I hear so many “sports journalists” talking about how the Tigers aren’t living up to the lofty expectations that the offseason brought. The thing is though that the Tigers didn’t create those expectations. The media created them by hyping the Prince Fielder signing. It was the media that created the expectations that the team is not meeting. That’s not to say that this team isn’t playing well below their potential, because they certainly are. But it’s still early enough in the season that there’s plenty of time to make up the ground before the September push.
On the other hand, the Reds are making a statement to everyone in the N.L. Central. With Lance Berkman down for the Cards, the Reds and Pirates are making power plays, with Cincy having much more success. The Reds currently hold a three-game lead in the division, and are looking to really add to it in the coming weekend series. It’s a clash of Central Division foes in the first of two weeks of Interleague play.
Friday – 6/8/12
Rick Porcello vs. Bronson Arroyo
Despite giving up a lot of hits in his last three starts (23, to be exact), Porcello has only given up eight earned runs. It sounds like a lot, but it’s a number that’s been steadily decreasing with each start. He was down to just one earned run last time out. He’s pitched wonderfully in four of his last six starts, and those two less-than-stellar starts were still pretty great. He’s not getting the run support to show for his efforts, and his ERA is still a little elevated from those two unfortunate starts against Texas and Seattle earlier this season. But he really does seem like a high-quality pitcher this season. As he continues to settle in, he can only keep getting better.
Porcello’s biggest problem, though, is that he’s throwing a lot of pitches in each inning. It’s been well documented that he’s a ground ball pitcher. He pitches to contact that puts the ball on the ground. But lately a lot of those ground balls are finding holes in the infield for base hits, driving up his pitch count and knocking him out of games much earlier than anyone would like. If he wants to continue showing signs of success, and staying in games later, he’s going to have to either put more balls in the air (not home runs, though, because he’s already given up seven of those) or work on a strikeout pitch.
Facing Rick is Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo has faced the Tigers in 31 innings of work over his career. He’s had moderate success against them, with a 2-1 record and 4.65 ERA. However, those numbers are in no way indicative of how he’ll pitch against this particular team. Arroyo has been in the big leagues for 12 years now, and it’s likely that most of his numbers came during his time with Boston from 2003-05. The Tigers weren’t very good then, so it’s not hard to have a winning record.
Jhonny Peralta has had a few at-bats against him, and Miguel Cabrera has a couple cuts, but the only ones with any real looks are Laird and Fielder during their time with the N.L. Central last year (and in the years before, as was Fielder’s case). Neither have very good numbers against him. So, with no real looks, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not that Tigers can get some good at-bats against him.
Saturday – 6/10/12
Justin Verlander vs. Homer Bailey
For a reigning MVP and Cy Young winner, Verlander has been the recipient of some unfortunate pitching and run support his last three times out. One start against Cleveland was a pitching duel. The last two starts have seen him give up five earned runs in Boston and three against New York. When the dust cleared, Justin was 0-3 with a 4.43 ERA. That’s not what he or anyone wants. Justin has never had any starts against the Reds, so he’ll just need to bring his “A” game and hope that the offense finally helps him out. He shouldn’t be holding his breath, though, because this offense hasn’t been helping anyone out lately. Even though he has the three losses in a row, Verlander is still one of the best pitchers in the game, and he’ll continue to succeed. When it comes right down to it, he’s not doing any better or worse than this time last year. After this point in 2011, Verlander was 6-3. So considering he ended up 24-5, J.V. still has one more loss he can give up to have a nearly identical season to 2011. He’ll be fine, and be in contention for another Cy Young when the season comes to an end. Of that we can all agree. He’s too good not to be.
Like Arroyo, Bailey has barely faced any of the Tigers’ current hitters. He’s never started against the team, and Prince Fielder hits him to a .353 average. So the chances of at least some players showing signs of life against him will be quite good. He’s been pitching well in his last few starts (except the last time out), but with a 4-4 record, he’s not quite getting the run support he needs, either. So he’ll need some help to out-duel Verlander and bring home a win for the Reds.
Sunday – 6/11/12
Drew Smyly vs. Mat Latos
Teams have gotten the scouting report on Smyly. He’s gone from nearly unhittable to giving up four earned runs per start. He’s still a great rookie, and he should continue to find success this season if he keeps pitching well. But he’s getting hit around a bit his last few times out, and he’ll need to change that if he wants to continue to find success. It’s time to adjust, because that’s what exceptional pitchers and players do when the opposition starts figuring them out. Adapt to survive. He hasn’t had a quality start for a month, and could desperately use a third win.
In his first year with Cincinnati, Latos has been less than impressive, with a 4-2 record and a 4.91 ERA. However, he is 2-0 in his last three starts, meaning he’s doing something right. Either that, or he’s just getting an amazing amount of run support from the offense behind him, especially considering his ERA in those three starts is 5.60. In his favor, though, is the fact that he’s going deep into games, with six innings of more in half his starts. Given the way the Tigers’ offense has been lately, getting deep into a game will only benefit Latos, as he’ll be able to confuse the opposition from beginning to almost end of the game.
Game 1: Tigers
Game 2: Tigers
Game 3: Reds
Final: Tigers win series 2-1
At this point, I shouldn’t be trying to predict anything. I am coming up empty every time I predict a Tigers win, and this weekend of interleague play won’t help anything. The Detroit pitching staff will have to take at-bats for the next few days, and with a bench that’s more or less depleted (and free of any real power), it’s not like pinch hitting for the pitcher late in games will really help anything. When your bench guys are Don Kelly and Bryan Holaday, you might as well just let your pitchers hit. Luckily Austin Jackson seems to be close to a return, so at the very least we’ll have (hopefully) Quintin Berry to sacrifice bunt and pinch run late in these games. I can only look at the numbers before deciding. The Reds are playing well, and holding a significant lead in their division right now. But this Tigers team still has the unfathomable potential to rock any team in the majors at a moment’s notice. Here’s hoping that’s exactly what happens this weekend.