DETROIT TIGERS (41-32)
at TEXAS RANGERS (35-41)
First pitch: Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Detroit -135, Texas +125, Total: 9
The Tigers look to extend their five-game winning streak on Wednesday night when they visit the struggling Rangers, losers of six in a row.
Detroit was not looking good earlier this month when it relinquished its AL Central lead, but has now rattled off five straight wins to reclaim a three-game lead in the division. The Tigers' 8-2 victory on Tuesday night marked their fourth straight game where they scored at least five runs, as Detroit tallied 16 hits in the win with two leaving the park. 2B Ian Kinsler hit one of the homers against his former team, and has been hot over his past 10 games, going 17-for-43 (.395) with four doubles, three home runs, 10 RBI and eight runs. Texas has struggled with big injuries to many of its key players this year and enters this game as losers in the past six contests. The Rangers have also struggled offensively in their past five games, scoring just 11 runs (2.2 per game). 3B Adrian Beltre has not been struggling though, and went 4-for-4 in Tuesday’s loss to make him 11-for-27 (.407) with two doubles and 5 RBI over his past seven games. Looking to extend the Tigers winning streak in this one will be RHP Anibal Sanchez (4-2, 2.33 ERA) and he will be going up against 33-year-old veteran LHP Joe Saunders (0-3, 4.11 ERA). With Tuesday’s win, Detroit pushed its road record to an incredible 22-13 and is the favorite to earn its 23rd victory against a Texas team that is just 16-20 at home this year. While this season has not gone well for the Rangers, they have gone 14-8 in this particular series over the past three years (3-2 this year) and are 7-4 at home over that time. Bettors should take notice that Texas is just 5-15 (.250) at home when the money line is +125 to -125 this season, but also consider that Anibal Sanchez’s teams are a woeful 9-21 (.300) after he gave up one or less earned runs in his previous outing over the past two seasons. On the injury side of things, OF Torii Hunter (hamstring) is day-to-day for Detroit while Texas is still without the services of plenty of offensive players (Prince Fielder, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jurickson Profar, Mitch Moreland) and key pitchers (Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers) for this contest.
Anibal Sanchez has continued to be an extremely effective pitcher this year despite seeing his strikeout rate drop from 10.0 K/9 last season to just 7.6 per nine innings over 12 starts in 2014. He has been amazing at keeping the ball in the park, allowing just one home run (0.13 HR/9) in his 69.2 innings. Part of his success has been luck though, as batters are hitting just .232 BABIP. Sanchez's great consistency has led to him having six straight quality starts coming into this contest while posting a solid 32:6 K/BB ratio in that time (41.2 IP). Sanchez’s last game was against the Royals when he earned his fourth win of the year after going seven innings and giving up just one run on five hits and one walk while failing to record a strikeout. He has not done well in four career starts against the Rangers though, going 1-3 with a 6.98 ERA and 1.86 WHIP, but has been solid in his past two outings against them, throwing 12.2 frames while allowing 11 hits and four runs with 11 strikeouts and only two walks. Stud 3B Adrian Beltre has gone 6-for-8 with a double and 3 RBI in his career versus Sanchez, while SS Elvis Andrus is just 3-for-13 (1 triple, 2 RBI, 3 K’s) over his time against the veteran righty. Detroit’s bullpen has continued to be its weakest link, going 9-9 with a 4.75 ERA while saving 20-of-28 (71%) games. Closer Joe Nathan (6.18 ERA, 15 saves) is only 15-for-20 in his save opportunities and has already walked 13 batters in 27.2 frames (4.2 BB/9) this year
Joe Saunders found his way into the Rangers’ rotation due to plenty of injuries to their top guys, and so far he has done just about as well as expected. He has yet to earn his first win of the year, but has allowed two or fewer earned runs in four of his six outings. Saunders has never been a swing-and-miss type pitcher, whiffing just 5.2 batters per nine innings over his career, and it has not been too different this season with 5.3 K/9. On the other hand, his control has suffered, as he is walking 3.8 batters per nine innings. He earned his third loss of the year in his last outing, going just 4.2 frames against the Angels while surrendering seven runs (4 ER) on 10 hits and three walks with three strikeouts. Saunders has had plenty of experience against Detroit, and he is 1-3 (4-6 team record) with a 5.21 ERA and 1.43 WHIP against them, while he hasn’t started a game that his team has won when facing them since 2009. Some of the Tigers batters have been great in this matchup with 2B Ian Kinsler (12-for-36, 3 doubles, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 4 walks), OF Rajai Davis (12-for-39, 4 doubles, 1 RBI) and 1B Miguel Cabrera (6-for-17, 2 doubles, 3 RBI, 5 walks) all having success. Meanwhile, OF Austin Jackson (1-for-7, 3 K’s) has not done well against the 33-year-old starter. The Rangers’ relievers have really struggled this season, going 14-13 with a 4.51 ERA, while converting only 16-of-25 (64%) save chances. Joakim Soria (1.75 ERA, 15 saves) has been tremendous in his return to the closer role this year though, and has blown just one save while posting an impressive 35:3 K/BB ratio over 25.2 innings on the mound.