The Dodgers open interleague play this season by hosting the Tigers starting tonight at Dodger Stadium. Detroit has won 13 of their last 20 games to catch the Twins in the AL Central. The Dodgers are 58-45 in interleague play all-time at Dodger Stadium, including winning two of three against Detroit in 2005. The last time they played the Tigers was 2008 in Detroit, when the Tigers swept the post-Furcal-injury and pre-Manny Dodgers.
Chad Billingsley is 3-2 with a 2.64 ERA in his last five starts, with 12 walks and 25 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings, and is coming off his best start of the season, pitching 7 1/3 scoreless innings in San Diego on Sunday. Billingsley has the dual tasks tonight of facing a tougher offense than that of the Padres, and not taxing himself to the point that manager Joe Torre would consider pushing everyone back a day next week rather than utilize the off day Monday to skip the uninspiring fifth starter spot.
Since getting traded to the Tigers and subsequently signing a three-year, $29 million extension in December 2007, Dontrelle Willis has struggled mightily. In three seasons in Detroit, Willis has walked 85 batters in 90 1/3 innings. He spent parts of the last two seasons in the minors trying to regain his stellar form, and appeared to turn things around this season, even though his peripheral numbers aren't so good (22 walks and 26 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings). Of the 141 pitchers in major league baseball who have thrown at least 30 innings this season, none have thrown strikes less often than Willis.
This matchup features two of the best right-handed hitters you will ever see, in Miguel Cabrera and Manny Ramirez. Cabrera is enjoying a fine season, hitting .340/.428/.603 with nine home runs and 38 runs batted in. His 175 OPS+ is reminiscent of Manny's 173 OPS+ in his age 27 season, in 1999. Both Cabrera (159, 151, 150, 142) and Ramirez (147, 146, 146, 142) had four seasons with a 140 OPS+ before their breakout age 27 season, and are quite similar:
|Great Right-Handed Bats Through Age 27|
Since 1901, only 29 right-handed batters have had an adjusted OPS (OPS+) of 140 or higher through their age 27 season (minimum 2,000 plate appearances).
Both teams have had very productive outfields so far this season:
|Outfield Production (with MLB Rank)|
Rookies Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch have combined with Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez to create quite a four-man combination in the outfield and designated hitter.
Manny is back in the lineup tonight, and Russell Martin gets the night off after 21 straight starts at catcher. The Dodgers have nine right-handed batters in the lineup tonight for just the second time in the last decade. Since the beginning of 2000, the only other time the Dodgers featured a lineup with nine righties was August 8, 2008.
Game Time: 7:10pm