The Tigers look to gain ground in the AL Wild Card race as they host the Orioles Friday night. Tommy Hunter faces the tough Justin Verlander. Hunter could be an example of a pitcher whose control is too good. He only walked 21 batters in 112 innings this season. Opponents put a ton of balls in play against him, however, as he only struck out 62 batters. His BABIP is a perfectly reasonable .299, so luck isn’t playing much of a role. The fact is hitters make a high amount of contact against his pitches, so he rarely gets in three ball counts. This leads to a high BA against (.304) but a decent OBP against (.338). What really kills him is the solid contact, as batters slug .526 against him as he allowed 27 home runs.
Verlander, on the other hand, struck out 174 batters in 175 2/3 innings. Batters don’t walk much against him because they’re swinging and missing, or just taking pitches in the strike zone. Opponents slash line against Justin is .207/.255/.316. He’s doing everything right.
The Dodgers are in the position of needing to worry about both a division title and a wild card, since at this point if they fall out of the NL West race, they may find themselves trailing in the WC race as well. They play in Atlanta against a Braves team with a four-game lead over Pittsburgh for the first wild card slot. Chris Capuano battles Tommy Hanson. The 33-year-old Capuano is having the best year of his career, posting a 3.11 ERA with just 15 home runs allowed. His home runs per fly ball is down compared to his career. Hanson owns an ERA over 4.00 for the first time in his brief career. Everything his a little off this season, with his home runs and walks up a bit, and his strikeouts down a bit.
Finally, the Rays try to put a little more ground between themselves and the Angels as James Shields takes on Jered Weaver. It looks like something clicked for Shields over his last three starts, walked just two and struck out 19, pitching 24 innings. He walked 44 in his previous 21 starts. Weaver goes for his 16th win, to tie David Price for the league lead. His Karen Valentine ERA comes from being tough with runners in scoring position. Opponents have had only 64 at bats in that situation with just nine hits and six walks.