The Tigers have outscored the Red Sox 7-1 in the series and have the 2013 American League ERA champ returning to the mound tonight. Here are some of the storylines Dan Shulman, John Kruk and Buster Olney will be talking about on our telecast.
Inside the Pitching Matchup: Sanchez vs. Peavy
Anibal Sanchez has gone from a solid midrotation starter with the Marlins to front-line caliber with the Tigers. His ERA, which was 3.70 from 2010 to 2012, dropped to 2.63 combining 2013 and 2014, with a strikeout rate that increased from 21 percent to 27 percent of hitters faced.
Since Start of Last Season
What has changed about Sanchez’s profile? He is throwing his devastating changeup more often than he used to, increasing its use from 15 times per 100 pitches (2010 to 2012) to 23 times per 100 pitches (2013 and 2014).
Red Sox starter Jake Peavy has had his share of struggles this season, and the primary reason for this has been something uncharacteristic -- wildness. Peavy leads AL starting pitchers with a 13 percent walk rate this season.
Star Watch: Ortiz vs. Cabrera
With Ortiz, watch how Sanchez pitches him. If Sanchez throws him a pitch on the outer half of the plate, he’s living dangerously. Ortiz has a .364 batting average (best in the majors) over the past three seasons in at-bats that end with an outer-half pitch.
With Cabrera in the middle of a potent Tigers lineup, see how the Red Sox approach the situation should they face him with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Over the past three seasons, Cabrera is hitting .444 (56-for-126) with 15 homers in that scenario. Even when opponents try to avoid him, they can’t. He is 19-for-49 in those situations when the at-bat ends with a pitch out of the strike zone.
Red-Hot: Victor Martinez
Tigers DH Martinez got off to a slow start last season but has been one of the best hitters in the game over the past 11 months. Martinez’s .357 batting average since July 1 is the best in the majors over that span.
Last 2 Seasons
Martinez has hit safely in 18 of his last 19 games, with six home runs in 74 at-bats. He is 3-for-9 in this series, but the damage could be far worse. He has recorded six balls that our hit classification system charted as “hard-hit.”
What makes Martinez so challenging is that he is extraordinarily difficult to strike out. He has fanned in only 6 percent of his plate appearances this season, the lowest rate among any hitter currently qualified for the batting title.