The Tigers have won five in a row and lead the Kansas City Royals by three games in the AL Central. The Rangers are 11 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics in the AL West and on a six-game losing streak.
Here are three statistical storylines of two teams headed in different directions going into the matchup.
Anibal Sanchez leads the way
Aníbal Sánchez, the Tigers’ starter Wednesday night, has been the best pitcher on a staff that features two of the past three AL Cy Young Award winners. Since joining the Tigers’ rotation in 2012, Sánchez has an ERA of 2.79. Only Hisashi Iwakuma of the Seattle Mariners has a lower ERA among qualified AL starters during that time (2.73).
Sánchez uses off-speed pitches 52 percent of the time, the fifth-highest percentage among AL starters (minimum 10 starts). Among the 65 AL starters with at least 10 starts in 2014, Sánchez ranks in the top 11 in opponent batting average (.185), on-base percentage (.219) and slugging percentage (.260) in at-bats that end with off-speed pitches.
J.D. Martinez stays hot
J.D. Martinez Batting, June 9-24
J.D. Martinez followed up his award-winning week with a 2-for-5 performance that included a two-run home run Tuesday. Martinez began his current 13-game hit streak June 9 and has raised his batting average from .242 to .314 in the process.
Martinez has 12 extra-base hits during his hitting streak, including five home runs. Both numbers are tied for the best in baseball over the past 16 days.
Joe Saunders struggles
Wednesday’s starter for the Rangers is Joe Saunders. Saunders is 0-3 with a 4.11 ERA in six starts this season and has not won a start since Aug. 31, 2013. Saunders is 0-6 in 10 starts since that win.
Opponents have a .346 batting average against Saunders this season, worst among MLB starters (minimum six starts). Teammate Colby Lewis has the second-worst batting average against at .345.
Saunders is 1-3 with a 5.20 ERA in 10 career starts against the Tigers.