When he’s going right, Doug Fister is a great pitcher. The Tigers’ move to pick him up last year was probably one of the kesy to their late surge to the playoffs and gave them that one-two punch with Justin Verlander you need to succeed in October. This season he’s been a bit tweaked up, but the last two times out he’s gone seven and eight innings, first against the Baltimore Orioles and then the Los Angeles Angels, allowing a combined five hits and two earned runs while striking out 18. Luckily, lefties have an .803 OPS off Fister this year and the Indians have already beaten him, touching Doug for five hits and two runs over 6 ⅔ innings back in May.
Jimenez has faced the Tigers twice this season. On May 22nd Ubaldo lasted six innings and despite walking six he gave only up three runs, all on a homer by Alex Avila. On June 5th he was in for 6 ⅔ innings and gave up only one run on five hits with four K’s. Both started ended in Tribe victories, but Detroit was much less awesome to behold at that point in the season though with Prince still acclimating, Jackson hurt, and the pitching staff a shambles. Ubaldo hasn’t inspired confidence recently either, giving up 18 runs over four starts (21 ⅔ innings).
Whenever Max Scherzer pitches I’m struck with how his demeanor and looks totally do not match his stuff. With his high socks and goofy grin you’d think he was a junkballer. Then he unleashes a running fastball in the mid-90’s and a nasty slider that just swerves like Pimp C. Sometimes he just loses the plate altogether or starts grooving it down the middle, and ends up with 100 pitches midway through the fifth inning. He’s kind of like a poor man’s Scott Kazmir. He’s leading the AL in 11 strikeouts per nine innings, but rarely lasts more than six frames (he’s averaging 5.7 per start) so we’re sure to see the bullpen in this one.
So maybe rumors of Derek Lowe’s rejuvenation were a bit premature. Maybe the heavy lake air is getting to him. Maybe he’s just old and not good anymore. Whatever the cause, over his last four starts (20 ⅓ innings) he’s walked 12 given up 22 runs (19 earned) on 27 hits. He just hasn’t been very good lately. He needs to be on this week, because this is a massively important series.
- Justin Verlander (11-5, 2.42/3.27) vs. Zach McAllister (4.2, 3.21/3.66)
Coming into the season, you’d have looked at this and chuckled a bit then penciled in a Detroit win. After all, when the reigning Cy Young and MVP winner is throwing against a spot starter, what else can you expect? But McAllister has turned into the Indians’ most consistent starter, and in the month of July he’s pitched like an ace. Over four starts and 25 ⅓ innings he’s struck out 24 and held opponents to a .640 OPS. He’s also being helped by a .242 BABIP over that span, but as Jeremy Hellickson might say, why have a defense if you’re not going to use it? No promises, but it’s not totally out of the question that he could outduel Verlander.
As for Verlander, what is there to say? He’s still striking everyone out, throwing 100 in the eighth inning except when he’s breaking knees with his curveball, and generally just being incredible. Career-wise though, the Indians have not been kind to him. In 178 innings the Indians have knocked Verlander around to the tune of a 4.70 ERA and 20 home runs, though their OPS against him is only .690. There’ s been a ton of turnover for the Tribe, but over the last five years several Indians have gotten to him: Michael Brantley‘s hitting .438, Johnny Damon‘s at .316, Travis Hafner is hitting .313, and Shelley Duncan is at .308. So maybe there’s hope.
Yes, this should be considered a make or break series. If the Indians don’t do well (like, “two out of three” well) they’ll be in a pretty deep hole as the trade deadline approaches. The Tigers have gotten better with Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, and any rumors of the White Sox’ demise are greatly embellished. It can’t happen like last year—we need to maintain a consistent level of winning in order to stay in the race. Hopefully it’s not too late.