The Tigers make their second (and final) trip to SafeCo Field this season starting tonight for a short, two-game set. This time, the Tigers will have to make due without MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera.
Cabrera will miss the next two games to be with his wife, who is expecting the couple’s second child.
In his absence, Detroit will need strong efforts from each of the two pitchers lined up for this series, right handers Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman.
Verlander has won four straight starts and aims for a career-best five in a row tonight. Verlander (5-2, 3.43) took the loss in Seattle’s 4-2 win over Detroit on April 17. In that game, Verlander held the Mariners to three runs on seven hits in seven innings, out-pitched by Ryan Rowland-Smith and the M’s bullpen.
The Mariners will go with righty Doug Fister (3-2, 1.96) to oppose Verlander tonight. Fister leads the AL in ERA and is making just his 20th career start, the first against the Tigers. In his last three starts, Fister is 1-1 with an ERA of 3.15 including a three-run, eight inning effort against Toronto in his last outing.
He has faced only one current Tigers during his career, Johnny Damon, who is 3-for-7 lifetime against the Mariners hurler, including a double.
Regardless of familiarity, the Tigers figure to have significantly less punch in their lineup without Cabrera. This is just a guess, as lineups haven’t yet been released, but look for Johnny Damon to perhaps shift into the three-hole, with Magglio Ordonez dropping to fourth. Ramon Santiago, who hit second in Los Angeles over the weekend, would bat there again tonight.
With Fister on the mound, the Tigers can’t count on the longabll, as he has allowed just one home run in 55 innings this year. Verlander will have to be on top of his game yet again for Detroit to win this one.
As good as Fister has been this year, in the month of May, there is no one better than Verlander. Since we turned the calendars, Verlander is 4-0 with an ERA of 1.50. He has fanned 25 batters while walking nine in 30 innings.
In his career, Verlander has faced the Mariners in Seattle six times, going 3-3 (4.14 ERA) in those games. He has faced eight different Mariners at least 12 times each, and look out for Ichiro Suzuki, who hits him at a .424 (14-for-33) clip. Milton Bradley (3-for8, 4 walks) and Casey Kotchman (4-for-12, HR) have also seen success versus Verlander.
Chone Figgins is among the Mariners who have struggled against him, going 2-for-18 (.111). Ken Griffey Jr. is just 2-for-14 (.143) against Verlander and Mike Sweeney is 0-for-11 with a walk.