In one of the more highly contested match-ups of the season, the defending American League Champions, the Detroit Tigers, face off against their arch-rivals, the 2010 and 2011 AL champs, the Texas Rangers (8.05pm ET, Sunday).
The teams began a four-game series on Thursday night and will culminate with a showdown on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball as two aces, Detroit’s Doug Fister and Texas’ Derek Holland face off.
With both teams currently sitting atop their respective divisions and both the perennial top contenders for the AL spot in the World Series, there really is no love lost between Detroit and Texas. Because both teams have each won a game in the four-game set, Sunday’s contest will determine if one team wins the series or if it ends in a series split.
Let’s take a look at some of the storylines to follow in the Sunday night match-up.
Dueling ERAs: (DET) Doug Fister vs. (TEX) Derek Holland
While it may not be Justin Verlander and Yu Darvish on the mound, make no mistake, the match-up between Fister and Holland will be an intense pitching duel. Not only that but considering that these two both have ERAs under 3.10, the final game of the series should be a low-scoring affair.
On the season, Fister has the better record but it can be said that Holland has had more success. Holland’s ERA of 2.93 is good enough for 14th best in the AL while Fister’s 3.06 is ranked just 18th.
Holland’s 3-2 record is deceptive and not quite indicative of how good he has been this season. In both of Holland’s losses, he pitched quality starts, giving up just five total runs in 15 innings pitched. Also, Holland has had eight starts and while he has just three wins, the Rangers have won six of those starts.
The 29-year-old Fister has pitched to similar success this season. Currently in possession of a 5-1 record, Fister began the season with a 4-0 mark, yielding just nine earned runs in 34 innings throughout the month of April. Like Holland, Fister has managed to keep his team in a competitive position to win all season. The Tigers are also 6-2 in Fister’s eight starts.
But while both players have been playing very well this season, Holland has the edge as of late. In May, he has an ERA of just 2.18 with 20 strikeouts to just two walks in 20.2 innings pitched. Fister, who started strongly, has since tailed off. In May, his ERA is 4.50. A total of 15 strikeouts to just two walks however, is still a pretty good mark.
Ultimately, it will depend on the game and will depend on the day, but the duel, at least on paper, does look like it favors Holland and the Rangers.
The Miguel Cabrera Factor
The Detroit Tigers cannot be talked about accurately without mention of the best pure hitter in all of baseball, Miguel Cabrera. For Cabrera, the 30-year-old first baseman for the Tigers, the stats are undeniable.
Cabrera is defending an AL MVP and Triple Crown award, but if it is possible, his 2013 early season numbers are even better than where they were last season. Cabrera is currently posting a .376 batting average, .447 OBP and .596 SLG. His OPS is a massive 1.033. In addition to his hitting prowess, Cabrera has been a cog in Detroit’s line-up. He does only have eight home runs but his 42 RBI in just 39 games has him on pace for approximately 170 RBI on the season.
And if as a Rangers’ fan those numbers don’t scare you, take a look at this: over the past three full seasons (2010-12), Cabrera is posting a .384 average and .438 OBP in 112 at-bats against Texas. He has 12 doubles, four home runs, 18 runs scored and 24 RBI in this time as well.
Although the Rangers could take comfort in the fact that Cabrera is 0-5 in his career against Holland.
Comparing the Offenses
Contrary to popular belief, the Detroit Tigers do have an offense beyond Cabrera. Although he is a big part of it, the Tigers have paced not only the AL but all of Major League Baseball in runs (210), batting average (.282) and on base percentage (.349). They are ranked fifth in slugging (.433).
Other than Cabrera, a big part of the Tigers’ success has been because of 37-year-old Torii Hunter.
Feeling the need to prove to his old team, the LA Angels, that he can still play at a high level, Hunter is performing at the highest level in his first season with Detroit. His power numbers have so far been down, but Hunter is batting .309 with 20 RBI. Additionally, Hunter, the only one with significant at-bats against Holland, is batting .294 against the Ranger lefty with two home runs and five RBI.
And while the offense of the Texas Rangers has not been as successful as Detroit’s, the Rangers still rank in the top 10 of the four main offensive categories. The team is seventh in runs (193), fourth in batting average (.267), sixth in on base percentage (.331) and second in slugging (.447).
Texas is very much a power team and has shown that this season with 55 home runs and 65 doubles. Leading the way has been second baseman Nelson Cruz, with 11 home runs and 33 RBI. Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland have also contributed nine runs each.
Detroit v Texas Betting Picks
Detroit does boast a great offense, but so far in this series, the Rangers have done a good job limiting the Tigers’ run scoring. That fact will influence our over/under bet advise. So far, it has been Texas’ pitching particularly that has told much of the story.
- The Tigers are slight underdogs. BetOnline goes +106 (just over evens) on the moneyline. I think Detroit will win and advise taking those odds. Bovada are exactly evens for this bet.
- The combined run total is set at 9, where ‘under’ makes the value wager appeal as the betting pick at a shade over evens (+105) with BetOnline and, once again, precisely evens with Bovada.