PREGAME: In case you hadn’t heard, there are 2 rookies hooking up today. It will be Justin Verlander for Detroit and Anthony Reyes for the Cardinals.
First, we look at Reyes. This will be the first time the Tigers have seen Reyes, and anectdotally they seem to struggle with pitchers they face for the first time. In this case they’ve had plenty of time to prepare, but will it help?
Reyes is a predominantly fastball/change-up pitcher. He’s a flyball pitcher, with only 35% of balls in play on the ground. Because of this he’s prone to the long ball with 17 homers in 85 1/3 innings.
Righthanders hit for a lower average (249 vs 278), but post the same OBP(338) and a higher slugging percentage(525 vs 493) than their left hand counterparts. This would seem to be a favorable match-up for Marcus Thames, but Sean Casey looks to get the nod at DH.
Reyes is typically hit hardest early in the game (944 OPS in innings 1-3) so it will be important for the Tigers to shake off the rust of a week long layoff early.
On the other side will be Justin Verlander. I think I’m the only one who doesn’t think Verlander has pitched that well in the off season. He hasn’t been bad, but he also hasn’t made it out of the 6th inning in either game and it’s taken him 106 pitches to get that far each time. That said he’s been good enough as the Tigers posted wins in both his starts.
He’s been allowing baserunners, but he did that all season. Like he did all season, he’s done a good job stranding them with a 78% LOB rate because his OPS against with runners on drops to 684.
When he faced the Cardinals earlier this year, Yadier Molina had 2 doubles and Albert Pujols reached base twice. He had Scott Spezio tied up to the tune of 3 K’s.
Game Time 7:30pm
POSTGAME: Was it rust or was it Reyes? In any case the Tigers turned in their worst performance of the playoffs despite Justin Verlander seemingly having a solid command of his curve ball.
I’ll have a full aftermath post tomorrow morning, but some quick thoughts on tonights game first:
- Reyes baffled the Tigers. Most of those non-groundballs were simply pop-ups or soft liners to Belliard. It’s not like the Tigers were hitting at-em balls. They just weren’t hitting the ball hard and the only “Oh man” moment was Pudge’s flyball to the warning track.
- The patience the Tigers displayed in the past rounds was gone. Magglio Ordonez was the only Tiger to walk, and the only Tiger to reach a 3 ball count off of Reyes. Reyes deserves some of the credit, but the Tigers didn’t make him work and enabled the Cardinal bullpen a night off.
- You can question the decision to pitch to Pujols and you can lament the error filled 6th inning, but the Tigers hitters inability to get anything off of Reyes was the difference in the game.