Zach McAllister (7-7, 3.51 ERA/3.79 FIP) vs. Rick Porcello (10-7, 4.49/3.53)
McAllister has been golden since returning to the fold. He’s earned a win his last three times out and hasn’t been Scherzering – 1.83 ERA in 19 ⅔ innings. Lucky? Yeah, a bit, but maybe he just knows how to induce that sweet weak contact. He’s faced the Tigers twice this year though, so maybe he’s not so lucky. They’ve blasted him for a 7.56 ERA in only 8.1 innings. Hopefully it’s, you know, not like that this time.
As my buddy John, a Tigers fan, said of Rick Porcello, “Good thing he doesn’t suck anymore”. And it’s true – Porcello is the perfect number five starter for this rotation. Even when you hit on him in a series, it’s not an easy game. He’s striking people out at a career high rate with the biggest difference being he’s throwing curveballs 16.72% of the time. His previous career high was 4.9%, back in his rookie year. Still so young at 24, he trusts his secondary pitches, and it’s turned him into a viable major league starter. So bully for him.
Scott Kazmir (7-6, 4.25/3.99 vs. Anibal Sanchez (11-7, 2.61/2.43)
It’d be nice to get more of the Kazmir we saw the last time out, rather than the one that showed up two starts back. With the sweep at the hands of the Braves the Indians need a strong couple of starts, and with no Masterson on the hill Kazmir might be the best bet. He’s got one start against Detroit this year, 5.2 innings with two earned runs. The Tribe offense has been so anemic they’re bound to bounce back and give him a hand. Hopefully.
Is Anibal Sanchez the Tigers best starter? Perhaps, all Scherzer has on him is the wins and .5 fWAR, which isn’t a big deal. Anibal gets on a roll and suddenly he’s got 11 K’s, it’s amazing. Having tamped down the walks that made him much more pedestrian in Miami, he’s a stud these days, sixth in baseball in fWAR at 4.9. He’s good, and he’s done well against the Tribe – two starts, 12.2 innings, 15 K’s and a 2.13 ERA. Strong like bull.
Danny Salazar (1-2, 3.67/4.07) vs. Justin Verlander (12-10, 3.73/3.54)
I’m of two minds about he treatment the Indians are using on Salazar. Plainly he’s valuable – the guy thows 96 with location, that’s always useful. And he’s too good to be a reliever, the secondary stuff is filthy. But 77 pitches? Against the Tigers he won’t get out of the fourth inning. Sure, he can dominate, and he struck out Miguel Cabrera three times when he faced them in his second major league start, but again, 77 pitches? The pressure will be on the bullpen in this one, and who knows how much they’ll have left if McAllister and Kazmir can’t last?
This will be Verlander’s fifth start against Cleveland, his most against any team this year. He’s been rather pedestrian too – 4.32 ERA in 25 innings. He’s got the 29 K’s but eight walks is unlike him and the 27 hits is downright shocking. He’s been throwing a lot more pitches this year and not been as effective. It could be fatigue, it could be age catching up though he just hit 30, maybe it’s just the long seasons catching up to him. The guy has been a warhorse for the Tigers. Of course he’ll probably just go out and throw a three hitter because he’s pissed Kate Upton didn’t like his hairy chest. But he can still throw 98 in the seventh, if he gets there.