September 17th, 2013

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Mariners

The only Tiger with any at-bats against M’s starter Brandon Maurer is Jose Iglesias, and that consisted of one at-bat before his trade over from Boston. However, there are no discernible trends to his pitching. Hitters have had a good amount of success against him from both sides of the plate, and he has given up a lot of home runs — 14 of them over just 72 2/3 innings.

The one surprise is Don Kelly getting the start over Andy Dirks, which Leyland attributed to just giving Kelly a game. Dirks did not look injured or anything when he went out for batting practice.

As expected, the Tigers bullpen is short again, but it gains an arm back. Jeremy Bonderman (thumb) felt fine throwing his bullpen session yesterday, so he’s available in relief tonight. Bruce Rondon (elbow tenderness) is scheduled to throw tomorrow, it turns out, not today. Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly are both on rest after their work in last night’s win, so look for Jose Veras to get a save chance if the opportunity arises.

Heads-up for Thursday: Leyland said today that he’s going to put Victor Martinez back behind the plate for Thursday’s series finale. Miguel Cabrera will get to DH that game, while Ramon Santiago will most likely get the start at third.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Don Kelly, LF
  7. Omar Infante, 2B
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-1 vs. Brandon Maurer)

P: Anibal Sanchez

MARINERS (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Abraham Almonte, CF
  2. Franklin Gutierrez, RF (0-for-3)
  3. Kyle Seager, 3B
  4. Raul Ibanez, DH (7-for-26, 5 walks, 4 K’s)
  5. Justin Smoak, 1B (0-for-6, 3 K’s)
  6. Michael Saunders, LF
  7. Mike Zunino, C
  8. Nick Franklin, 2B
  9. Carlos Triunfel, SS

P: Brandon Maurer

Reminder: Division Series tickets on sale at noon

Just a friendly reminder — especially for those of you who might have tried logging on or calling early — that tickets for Division Series games at Comerica Park go sale today at noon. They’re available online at tigers.com/postseason and by phone at 866-66-TIGER.

For Division Series tickets, there’s a limit of six tickets per order, per game.

The A’s actually lost to the Angels last night, so the gap between Detroit and Oakland for the American League’s second-best record is down to a game. Oakland’s magic number is also down to seven now because the Rangers keep losing. At this rate, the A’s might be able to clinch before the Tigers do. Add in Oakland’s remaining schedule — two more at home against the Angels, four against the Twins, three in Anaheim and three in Seattle — and it’s hard to tell which way the second seed is going to go.

This year’s Division Series return to a 2-2-1 format for home-and-road games. The schedule was released last week:

  • Game 1: Friday, Oct. 4 (TBS or MLB Network)
  • Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 5 (TBS)
  • Game 3: Monday, Oct. 7 (TBS or MLB Network)
  • Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 8 (TBS)
  • Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 10 (TBS)

If the Tigers get one of the top two seeds, they’ll host Games 1, 2 and 5. If they have the worst record of the three division winners, they’ll host Games 3 and 4.

Rick Porcello and the strikeout rate

Rick Porcello didn’t crack five strikeouts per nine innings for a season until his third year in the Major Leagues. That was two years ago. He bumped his strikeout rate a little bit from there to 5.5 last year. After Monday’s six-inning, 10-strikeout performance, he’s up to 6.96 this season. With matchups against the White Sox and Marlins due up to finish out his season, he has a legitimate chance to end the year averaging seven.

This is no longer the sinkerballing Porcello we’ve come to expect. This is more like the pure pitching Porcello some saw out of the draft in 2007. The sinker is still his dominant pitch, but it’s no longer the only thing he can throw for outs.

“You’ve got to be able to strike guys out, especially in the American League,” Porcello said after Monday’s 4-2 win. “With the type of hitters they have in big, strong guys, we have to be able to get swings and misses when you need them. I’ve been to do that a little bit better this year than I have in year’s past. It is a weapon.”

Mariners manager Eric Wedge would probably agree. His last year in Cleveland was Porcello’s first in Detroit, so he had a chance to watch him a lot as a rookie.

“He wasn’t really making mistakes,” Wedge said. “He’s more of a complete pitcher now than he was three or four years ago when he was younger. He just has more weapons.”

If you count his sinker and his power fastball as two different pitches, then he threw a five-pitch arsenal as the M’s on Monday. Yes, the sinker was the workhorse pitch, comprising 38 of his 105 pitches. His next-favorite selection, however, was his curveball, the onetime show-me pitch in his arsenal. He threw 22 of them, 12 of strikes, five for swings and misses, according to brooksbaseball.net. All five whiffs came from left-handed hitters, who had four more off his changeup.

“I think coming into the game, knowing they had a lot of left-handed hitters, knowing that breaking ball was going to be a big pitch for me to be effective tonight, we really used it a lot early,” Porcello said. “Started to get some swings and misses and some effective outs with it, so we kind of kept going to it and it worked out.”

He struck out seven of Seattle’s first 19 hitters, three of them on curves. Other times, the curve and changeup set up hitters for the fastball, which Porcello was able to spot.

“I knew that offspeed pitches were going to be real big today,” he said. “They only had two right-handed hitters in the lineup. A lot of times, a lineup that’s right-handed heavy I can rely on my sinker a lot more but when we get left-handed hitters up there, they seem to hit the sinker a lot better. The offspeed pitches were big and we knew that going in and that was our game plan was to keep it those down. Alex [Avila] called a great game and we were both in sync.”

Porcello said he thought the curveball was the key pitch for him, while Jim Leyland thought it was the changeup. Either way, the two gave him a chance against lefties.

“I think he’s executing pitches better,” Leyland said, “and that’s a weapon against a left-hander. He can throw a sinker down and away and got some ground balls, but you also have to have something to get [hitters] off the sinker, because you keep throwing sinkers and you throw a high sinker, they go a long way. His offspeed stuff is getting better as we speak. That’s been a big key for him.”

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