Series Preview – Detroit Tigers vs. Kansas City Royals
Let’s start with a recap of the previous series, Tigers vs. White Sox. First thing is first, I was wrong about how the series turned out. It kind of sucks that my first attempt at picks was so terribly wrong. Then again, I did say the Tigers would lose on Saturday, although they lost for a very different reason than I thought they would. Adam Wilk was actually really great through the first five innings, and had it not been for that foul ball he took off his shoulder, he may have gotten another one or two great innings of work. It was a very good day for the rookie until that point. Max Scherzer, did exactly as predicted as well. While he didn’t win (due in most part to the fact that Jake Peavy basically looked as good as he did at any point during his Cy Young year), he did give up only three runs and struck out 11. It was really the offense that couldn’t get it going for that game, and as I said, this was probably the biggest question mark of a game (either pitcher could just dominate). Porcello has looked unbelievably good through two starts, especially after he went another seven innings (7 2/3, to be exact) on Sunday. He didn’t give up a run until the eighth, and was really looking like he’d get to pitch a complete game, before a little trouble derailed him late.
The Tigers continue their road trip (and their A.L. Central tour) with a trip to Kansas City for a battle with the Royals. Everyone predicts the Royals to be on the verge of breaking out of their typical bottom finishes, with draft picks like Moustakas and Hosmer finally paying dividends, as well as having the potential to be the Tigers’ biggest challenger for the division this year. Whether or not any of this turns out to be true remains to be seen. What we can say with some confidence through the first eight games of the season is that the Royals aren’t looking much different. They started strong against the Angels, but really dropped the ball against the Athletics and the Indians.
So let’s dive into the pitching matchups for the series this week, and see whether or not the Tigers can bounce back and get on a little bit of a winning roll before heading for home next weekend.
Monday – 4/16/12
Justin Verlander vs. Dan Duffy
Verlander is Verlander. Despite that blowup in the ninth inning of his last start against the Rays, he still pitched eight shutout innings. He’ll figure out what he did wrong, bounce back strongly, and pitch another gem of a game. Whether he has a little hiccup or not, it’s never a good idea to bet against him. Consider also the fact that he’s 13-2 lifetime against the Royals (with only Billy Butler and Jeff Francoeur having any real success against him).
Dan Duffy started his season very strong, and simply suffered from the Royals’ curse: Whenever they have a decent pitcher, they can’t get him enough run support to actually win games. Ask Zack Greinke or Bruce Chen (sort of). Duffy pitched an amazing game against the Athletics, going six very strong innings with only one hit given up. He didn’t allow a single run, yet the Royals still lost the game. This could bode well for the Tigers, especially if the Royals continue their trend and don’t provide any run support. Justin Verlander does great work when he has little run support (except, apparently, the last game he pitched), so as long as the Tigers can get him one run, Duffy will most likely be dead in the water. Not many tigers have hit much against Duffy (with Cabrera having the most success, but only eight at-bats), so what they’ll be able to do as a team remains to be seen. But even if most of them fall short, the fact that the guy who has hit him best being Cabrera means that Duffy could be in a lot of trouble the deeper he goes into the game.
Tuesday – 4/17/12
Drew Smyly vs. Bruce Chen
Smyly showed amazing promise during his first start at Comerica Park. If he had any sort of rookie jitters, they didn’t show. And the Royals aren’t exactly the kind of intimidating team that will cause those rookie jitters to make an appearance this time. Granted, he only got through four innings of work before he was pulled, so how strong he can remain in the sixth and seventh innings remains to be seen. Hopefully we will get an answer to that in this particular game. None of the Royals’ hitters have ever seen him before (since it is only his second game ever in the major leagues), but hitters like Francoeur, Butler, and Hosmer are smart and have definite potential to figure him out quickly. But if Smyly keeps his poise, he should be able to continue his early success.
Bruce Chen has had moderate success against the Tigers. Like Gavin Floyd of the White Sox, Chen’s ERA is a little elevated against the Tigers at 5.95, but he still has more wins than losses against them. Which means that even when he is giving up four, five, or six runs, the Royals’ offense is putting up five, six, or seven runs to get Bruce a decision in the game. Like many pitchers in baseball, Cabrera is the one with the most success against Chen, hitting .471 against him. Unfortunately for the Tigers, that’s really the only guy who’s had regular success. Raburn, Peralta, and Jackson have had their fair share of cuts against him, yet Peralta and Jackson are both hitting under .150 against him. Cabrera’s great, but he can’t be counted on to carry the team every game. Not that he has yet (nor needs to at any point during the season), but it may be something that other players consider when he’s the only one hitting Chen.
Wednesday – 4/18/12
Max Scherzer vs. TBD
The Royals have (as of Sunday afternoon) not yet announced who will pitch against Scherzer in Wednesday’s game. Because of that, we’ll just look at Max here, and make a pick accordingly. Scherzer definitely bounced back in his second start, even if he did give up three earned runs. The only reason he lost was because Peavy was simply amazing. Despite losing, Max still went seven strong innings, and struck out 11. Now, this begs the question of which is the real Max Scherzer, and which one will show up in any given start? The answer: Who knows. Seriously. I’d like to believe that the Max who pitched against the White Sox is the real Max, but games like that against the Red Sox Opening Weekend are way too common for Max.
Looking at the numbers on Scherzer against the Royals in his career, Max has be pretty so-so. His ERA is almost four; he has as many wins as losses; and the current lineup for the Royals have had decent success against him from top to bottom. That doesn’t exactly look like a recipe for a win. It really could come down to who the Royals throw out to pitch for them, and what kind of success the Tigers can have against him.
Series Final Picks
Game 1: Tigers
Game 2: Royals
Game 3: Royals
Final: Royals win series 2-1
As much as I hate to say it, I think the Royals will take this series. I hope I’m wrong, but considering how elevated Bruce Chen’s numbers are while still winning against the Tigers, I’d say he stands a better chance than Smyly of taking Game 2. I’d never bet against Verlander, no matter what. Looking at Scherzer’s numbers, I’d say the odds are against him to pitch the Tigers to a win, regardless of whom the Royals throw out. Again, I hope I’m wrong for this particular series, but I guess only time will tell.