I am overcome with joy each time the Tigers match up with the Royals. Why, you might ask? The answer is simple: I watched all of the preseason coverage and all of the so-called experts kept picking the Royals 1st or 2nd and the Tigers 4th or 5th. I just kept laughing every time I saw this. I just didn’t see it and I backed it up in my season preview/divisional predictions. I picked the Tigers 2nd, which was overly cautious it seems and picked the Royals last. Here we are in September with the Tigers carrying a mighty 6.5-game lead in the Central over the 2nd place Twins while the Royals are looking up from the bottom, as usual. KC sports a league-worst 52-85 record (23.5 games out of 1st). Detroit comes into KC riding high after 2 straight sweeps over Cleveland and Tampa Bay and looks to keep it rolling after a day off yesterday most likely spent chowin’ down on some world-famous Kansas City BBQ fixin’s.
The old story of “the Tigers can’t win on the road” seems to be fading away. Detroit has won their last 2 road series’ after a 10-series drought and they did it at the Angels and at Tampa Bay, two tough places to win. Detroit is 75-61 overall but still just 30-39 on the road, but the latter number is on the rise. The Tigers’ 6-game winning streak is also the longest active streak in the big’s right now.
The Tigers just can’t seem to pry the golden horseshoe out of their behinds as Zack Greinke, a leading candidate for the AL Cy Young Award, was set to pitch on Thursday, but was bumped back and the Tigers will now face yet another pitcher making his 1st start of the year. Detroit will throw their own Cy Young candidate, Justin Verlaner, in the middle game of the series. The other big story is tonight’s starter, Rick Porcello, going for his 13th win of the year at the tender age of 20. Porcello is in a dead heat with Toronto’s Ricky Romero and Tampa Bay’s Jeff Niemann for AL Rookie of the Year honors.
Game 1: 8:10 pm - Rick Porcello (12-8) v. Bruce Chen (1-6): Porcello looks to continue his solid pitching deep into the month of September. With the added bonus of his team being in a pennant race, he has to be looked at as a leading contender for Rookie of the Year. Porcello’s ERA has trended downward over the past several weeks, and now sits at 4.18. Chen has bounced between being a starter and a reliever this year for KC. His 1st start against Detroit lasted just 4.2 innings and he was hit hard for 7 earned runs, including 3 homers. He is a lefty so look for guys like Ryan Raburn, Marcus Thames and maybe even Wilkin Ramirez to be in the starting lineup.
Game 2: 8:10 pm – Justin Verlander (16-7) v. Robinson Tejeda (1-1): JV brings his boat load of impressive #’s to the mound in KC. He has a 3.29 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and a league-leading 222 strikeouts. If he can grab his 17th win, he will be 1 short of his career high of 18, set in 2007. Tejeda may not sound like much but he has pitched out of the pen all year until his last outing, which was his 1st start of the year. He went 5.1 innings, gave up just 1 hit and 2 walks, and struck out 6. In just 47.1 innings this year, he has 61 K’s. At age 27, this guy isn’t the next Pedro Martinez so look for him to come back down to Earth a bit in this one.
Game 3: 2:10 eastern – Jarrod Washburn (9-8) v. Lenny DiNardo (NR): Washburn comes back after missing his last start with a sore knee. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Tigers are starting him against the lowly Royals after skipping him against the powerful Rays. Washburn needs to get “right” because at some point down the stretch and into the playoffs, the Tigers are going to need him to pitch like he’s capable of pitching. DiNardo is a former Tigers farmhand. He’s a 29-year old lefty who has bounced around the majors and minors since 2004. This will be his 1st appearance at the big league level in 2009. He is 10-15 with a 4.93 ERA over his scattered career.