You might look at the pitching matchup in tonight's oh-so-crucial game and think, "Hey, that looks pretty even to me!"
After all, while Detroit's Justin Verlander is 17-9 with a solid 3.41 ERA, Minnesota rookie Brian Duensing is 5-1 and actually has a better ERA (3.33) than Verlander.
You would be wrong.
This is a massive mismatch, my friends.
Verlander's ERA doesn't do him justice. He leads the majors in strikeouts, and is fourth in the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio and fifth in home runs allowed per nine innings. Qualitatively, he's been just as good this season as Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez and everybody else in the league but Zack Greinke. If you have to pick one American League pitcher to start one terribly important game, Justin Verlander should be among your top five candidates.
And Brian Duensing? Not so much.
While Verlander probably is among the American League's top five pitchers, six months ago Brian Duensing wasn't generally regarded as one of the Twins' top five pitching prospects.
After signing with the Twins four years ago, Duensing dominated rookie-level hitters. But (as often happens) his strikeout rate fell as he moved up the ladder: seven per nine innings in Class A, six per nine innings in AA, and finally around five per nine innings in Triple-A. He's inched his strikeout rate higher in the majors, but with a concomitant increase in walks. Granted, he's been stingy with the long ball. Qualitatively, though, Duensing is probably two runs worse than Verlander every nine innings.
Like I said, it's a mismatch.
Fortunately, they don't play the games on paper. Which is why I'll be watching.