With the A.L. Division series now finished up, and Jim Leyland saving his best pitcher in Justin Verlander for Game 1 of the Championship Series, the question will turn to who starts game 2?
There really is only two options in this case, Rick Porcello or Max Scherzer. With Verlander starting game 1 and Doug Fister having started yesterday, the options are limited to the aforementioned guys, unless of course you bring Brad Penny into the mix. I doubt the Tigers and Jim Leyland would even do that if Penny had pitched great against Texas this year, but in his two starts, he has a 4.73 ERA. He’s out of the discussion.
Lets look at some positives and negatives for both guys.
The positive of starting Max Scherzer in Game 2 is that he is just a flat out better pitcher than Rick Porcello at this point in their careers. Assuming Verlander takes care of business in Game 1 and the Tigers have a lead, it would be tantalizing to have Scherzer matched up against Derek Holland in Game 2. Ideally, with Scherzer, the Tigers could be coming home with a 2-0 lead.
There is also the possibility of course that Justin Verlander doesn’t beat the Rangers in Game 1 of course. If that occurs, who are you going to feel more comfortable with as a Tigers fan? Scherzer or Porcello? I don’t think the Tigers want to come home down 0-2.
A look at his numbers vs. Texas tells us however, maybe we shouldn’t assume that Scherzer is the better option. Scherzer has had 3 starts versus Texas in 2011, going 17 innings and giving up 9 ER. One of those starts was in Arlington, in which he went just 5 innings and gave up 5 earned runs. Scherzer also threw 32 pitches against the Yankees on Thursday night. While I don’t think that is any great amount, essentially it’s a bullpen session for him, adding those to his warm up pitches, and the amount he actually threw adds up.
Rick Porcello on the other hand is well rested. Porcello, who started game 4 on Tuesday, didn’t pitch terribly against the Yankees. That’s a tough lineup. So is the Rangers lineup however. Porcello handled the Rangers lineup the only time that he faced them this year, going 6 innings and only 6 hits and 1 ER. He also did that pitching in their stadium. In fact, that is one of the main thing to consider with these two pitchers. One had success on the road against the Rangers (Porcello), and the other had success at home against the Rangers (Scherzer 4ER in 12 inn.). Rick Porcello is substantially better on the road this season, going 9-4 with and ERA of 4.00, compared to 5-5 with a 5.64 ERA at home. Checking the box score from his only start against the Rangers reveals that Texas did have all their horses in that lineup against Porcello.
Porcello’s season overall has been really erratic, and just because the Tigers got a good start from him in June doesn’t mean that is what they will get in October. Porcello and his inconsistency make him the most untrustworthy of all the Tigers starters in the playoffs, and he is still only 22.
I think what it comes down to is that Leyland is a match-up manager. He can see that Scherzer is way better at home than on the road, and that Porcello is better on the road. He can see that Porcello has had his success in Texas this season against the Rangers. And he is going to have to take into account that Scherzer just pitched on Thursday night. Pitching Porcello on Sunday would also allow him to use Fister and Verlander in Game 7 if he should choose that as well. I do believe we will see Porcello on the mound Sunday against the Rangers.
Still, if we are down 0-1, are you all comfortable with that? Who do you think you would rather have down 0-1, or up 1-0, does it matter?