MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays

Date/Time: July 27, 7:10 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Anibal Sanchez (10-7, 4.59) vs. Nate Karns (5-5, 3.47)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Tampa Bay -115

Total: 7.5

Is Monday’s line between the Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Bay Rays the most interesting one on the board? One could certainly make that case, as the light-hitting Rays are a small favorite over the Tigers. Anibal Sanchez will be on the mound for the Tigers as they try to avoid pushing Dave Dombrowski into a seller at the trade deadline. Nate Karns will take the hill for the Rays, who are going to be very quiet at the deadline this season after trading David Price to these same Tigers last season.

Even though the Tigers should sell before July 31, the amount of parity (to put it nicely) in the AL has just about everybody still in the race. The Tigers are within striking distance of the second wild card and there aren’t many people in baseball circles that feel like the Minnesota Twins can hold onto that spot. By the same logic, the Tampa Bay Rays are right in the thick of things. Unless the Tigers are a player for one of the dominant pitchers left out there, and there aren’t many, they should look towards the future.

One of the reasons why this season has been a disappointment for the Tigers is because of the starting staff, including Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez, who will probably be the de facto ace of the Tigers next season, has had a strange season. Sanchez has 10 wins, but he also has a 4.59 ERA. His strikeout rate has been dropping over his last few starts, but Sanchez was nearly a strikeout per inning guy with poor command. Something seems wrong with Sanchez physically. His ground ball rate is by rate the lowest it has been over the last six seasons and his command is uncharacteristically bad.

Sanchez has allowed 21 home runs in 131.1 innings. He allowed four in 126 innings last season and nine in 182 innings the season before. The 21 home runs Sanchez has allowed are now a career-worst. After the Tigers traded away Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly, and let Max Scherzer walk in free agency, they needed a big season from Sanchez. They haven’t gotten it and the demise of Justin Verlander has put them in a really difficult spot.

Not many organizations are capable of finding and developing pitching like the Tampa Bay Rays can. They pulled Nate Karns out of the Washington Nationals organization in the Jose Lobaton trade in February 2014 and he has thrown the ball very well this season. Karns has a tremendous curveball with a lot of depth and can use that off of his low 90s fastball. His changeup is slightly more than a show pitch to keep hitters honest and get them on their front foot to sneak a fastball by on the next pitch. Over 19 starts this season, Karns has a respectably 3.47 ERA with a 3.70 FIP and a 3.77 xFIP. In the American League, that’ll play in the fourth starter range, so Karns definitely has a lot of value.

He has struck out 22.5 percent of batters this season and has held them to a .232 batting average against. There’s a lot to like about Karns, even though he doesn’t have overpowering stuff. He knows how to mix his three pitches well, but the lack of depth in his arsenal has been a problem lately. His two highest months by slugging percentage have been June and July, as hitters are starting to take advantage of the fact that they can guess a little bit more against Karns. The Tigers have not seen him yet this season, so that could work to his advantage.

MLB Prediction: Detroit Tigers

Or it could hurt him in a big way. The Tigers are one of the best offenses at hitting the ball the other way and Karns doesn’t really have enough options to adjust. The one benefit for the Rays is that the Tigers will get in very late after playing ESPN Sunday Night Baseball at Fenway Park, but that seems like something that may affect the Tigers more on Tuesday than right away on Monday. They’re focused on getting wins and should be able to shake off the fatigue for the quick turnaround.