The first game of the weekend series between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians did not quite go as planned for the good guys, as the Traffic Guardians took Friday night’s matchup, 7-4, behind a rejuvenated Zach Plesac. On Saturday, the Tigers get a chance to even the three-game set with their American League Central Division rivals as the two tangle for the second spot in the standings.
Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera’s hunt for home run No. 500 remains on pause as he still sits one short, but hopefully, the historic milestone will come sometime this weekend. Detroit could use some oomph from their aged slugger’s bat if they want to beat Tribe as well as a bit of brilliance on the mound. On the latter point, here is what is in store for today’s tilt.
Detroit Tigers (57-61) vs. Cleveland Indians (56-58)
Game 119 Pitching Matchup
Wily Peralta, as I have mentioned several times before, has been one of the more pleasant surprises this season for the Tigers. Signed to a minor league contract in the offseason, a rash of injuries on the pitching staff thrust him back into the big lights of the show and he has filled in admirably. Sure, his strikeout and walk rates are nothing to write home about plus his FIP is nearly a full two runs higher than his ERA and he has only produced a tiny drop of fWAR, but he was brought in to eat innings and give his team a chance to win, and by golly, he has pretty much done that.
After a five-game stretch from June 26 to July 18 in which the 32-year-old registered a 0.34 ERA over 26 2⁄3 innings on 13 hits and eight walks while striking out 17, the veteran right-hander has sharply regressed over his past four outings. Since that tidy little run, things have been ugly as Peralta’s ERA ballooned to 6.75 while giving up 23 hits and eight walks, striking out 11, also giving up six home runs and hitting a batter in just 18 2⁄3 innings. To make matters worse, not only is he giving up a lot of earned runs, but he has surrendered even more of the unearned variety as evidenced by his most recent start against Cleveland last week in which he gave up five runs but only two were earned in the losing effort.
Key Matchup: Detroit’s defense vs. itself
Sticking on the earn runs topic, one of the reasons for Peralta’s success early on was that the defense was — for the most part — holding up behind him when he needed it. That has not been the case in his last two starts as the Tigers have given up at least one unearned run per appearance. The fielders cannot do much about balls hit over the fence, but the ones that remain in the park — especially on the infield dirt — must be taken care of in a professional manner. And speaking of dingers, Detroit’s starter cannot afford to let one leave the park. There is no room for brain farts today.