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Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers series preview

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Not gonna lie, I honestly forgot that the Tigers existed. What a time to be alive.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve been so worried about what the Minnesota Twins are up to that we forgot about our preseason division threat the Detroit Tigers. Perusing their current record, it’s easy to see why they’ve been forgotten; they currently sit at a record of 35-43 (7.0 games out of first place).

Logically I suppose I should be worried about the Tigers, but I’ve been feeling a lot like Don Draper in terms of them recently:

Detroit just finished taking 2 of 3 from the somehow “superior” Kansas City Royals after losing 2 of 3 to the definitely inferior San Diego Padres. Following this four game set in Cleveland, the Tigers will welcome the San Francisco Giants to Comerica Park before heading to Cleveland next weekend for their last series before the All-Star Break.

The Indians just finished up taking 3 of 4 from the Texas Rangers and will head to Comerica Park for the weekend. After that, they’ll play the San Diego Padres in Cleveland for some [redacted] reason instead of coming to beautiful San Diego where I could watch them. Thanks, Manfred. They’ll wrap up the first half of the season with Detroit before heading into the All-Star Break.

Pitching matchups

Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Anibal Sanchez (RHP)

Two starting pitchers with ERAs over 6. Should be a fun one. For the Tigers, Anibal Sanchez takes the mound in his third start of the year after being reinserted into the starting rotation on June 19. His overall numbers for the year are pretty bad: 32.0 innings pitched and 24 earned runs while walking 12 and striking out 31 (good for an ERA+ of 64). However, looking at just the games that he’s started paints a different picture: 11.0 innings pitched (2 starts), just 3 earned runs along with 3 walks and 9 strikeouts. His most recent start came on June 24 against the San Diego Padres. In that game, Sanchez went 6 innings and allowed just 1 run on 2 hits while walking no one and striking out 4.

Josh Tomlin takes the hill for the Tribe on Friday and he’s not as bad as you think he is. His overall numbers on the year aren’t pretty: 81.1 innings pitched, 55 earned runs while allowing 9 walks and striking out 61 (good for an ERA+ of 78), but we’ve seen a handful of games from Tomlin this year that were absolute gems, so it is possible. His last start, however, could have been better: on June 25 against the Minnesota Twins, Tomlin lasted 5.2 innings and gave up 4 earned runs on 9 hits while walking 3 (!!!) and striking out 5. The last time that Tomlin walked 3 batters in a game was September 20, 2015.

Saturday, 1:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Jordan Zimmerman (RHP)

Both pitchers in game 1 of Saturday’s double header will be looking for bounce back performances after rocky starts in their previous outings. Jordan Zimmerman, for example, gave up 5 earned runs in 4 innings while walking 3 and striking out 5 on June 25 against the San Diego Padres. Yeah, surprised me too. His season numbers also aren’t looking too pretty: in 86.1 innings, Zimmerman has allowed 53 earned runs while walking 28 and striking out 60 (good for an ERA+ of 78).

Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco had his worst outing of the year on June 26 against the Texas Rangers. In that game, Cookie lasted just 3.1 innings and gave up 8 earned runs on 6 hits while walking 3 and striking out 7. On the year, he’s looked incredible despite having some velocity issues in his most recent outings. In 90.2 innings, Carrasco has allowed 37 earned runs while walking 25 and striking out 96 (good for an ERA+ of 129). A good outing from Cookie would go a long way in setting up the Tribe pen for game 2 of the double header.

Saturday, 7:15 p.m. ET: Ryan Merritt (LHP) vs. Matt Boyd (LHP)

I’m fairly certain that, even though MLB hasn’t updated their site to reflect this, Ryan Merritt will be pitching for the Cleveland Indians on Saturday as Danny Salazar continues his rehab assignment in the minors. Opposite Merritt/Mystery Pitcher will be Matthew Boyd, a struggling left hander who will be called up to make a spot start on Saturday. I would say that the Indians are doomed, but their days of languish against lefties are over (or at least they aren’t as atrocious as they were earlier in the season). In 55.1 innings so far, Boyd has allowed 35 earned runs while walking 24 and striking out 37 (good for an ERA+ of 76). His last major league start came all the way back on May 31 against the Royals; he went just 3.2 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 1 and striking out 1. His most recent AAA start was ended abruptly (most likely due to the MLB call up) after just 4 innings.

Ryan Merritt is another pitcher who will be back on his major league club for the first time since June 17 when he made a spot start against the Minnesota Twins. He had given up 3 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 0 and striking out 2. He dazzled in his most recent AAA start against the Toledo Mud Hens on June 24; he went 8.0 innings and allowed just 1 earned run on 3 hits while walking no one and striking out a season high of 10.

Sunday, 1:10 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP) vs. Justin Verlander (RHP)

The young, fireballing gunslinger steps up to take on the grizzled, fading veteran to conclude this series on Sunday afternoon. Justin Verlander isn’t the pitcher he used to be, and it looks like his age may be finally catching up to him this season. In 94.2 innings so far in 2017, Verlander has allowed 47 earned runs while walking 44 and striking out 92 (good for an ERA+ of 97). For the first time since 2014, Justin Verlander is considered a below average pitcher in terms of ERA+. His most recent start, however, was a solid effort; against the Kansas City Royals on June 27, Verlander went 7.0 innings and allowed just 3 runs on 9 hits while walking 1 and striking out 6.

Mike Clevinger is looking good so far in 2017. In the 48.0 innings he’s pitched, Clevinger has allowed just 19 earned runs while walking 24 and striking out 55 (good for an ERA+ of 134). His most recent start came on June 27 against the Texas Rangers. In that game, Clevinger held the Rangers to just 1 earned run on 2 hits while walking 2 and striking out 9 over 6.0 innings.

Storylines

Will Miguel Cabrera remember how to hit against the Indians?

On the season, Cabrera has an OPS of .814, which isn’t horrendous. However, it is his lowest OPS since his rookie season in 2003 when it was .793. Throughout his entire career, Miguel Cabrera has only had 4 seasons with an OPS under .900 and just 1 season with an OPS under .800. Maybe it’s because he’s 34 and is hitting the decline stage of his career? Maybe it’s random baseball noise? Regardless of the reasoning, I just hope that he doesn’t figure it out this weekend.

Can the Indians win a “bullpen game”?

With four games in three days, should the starting pitcher implode early on Friday or Saturday, the bullpen will be heavily taxed and one of these games could very well end in a bullpen game. The best strategy would be to eat into Detroit’s bullpen early since they are terrible. Speaking of bullpens...

How many games will the Detroit bullpen blow this weekend?

The Tigers recently released Francisco Rodriguez because he was awful this season. He wasn’t happy about it, but the numbers don’t lie (25.1 IP, 22 ER, 11 BB, 23 K, 56 ERA+). Despite Rodriguez’s departure, however, the Tigers still have one of the worst bullpens in baseball. As a whole, the Tigers’ bullpen is dead last in baseball in terms of ERA (5.15) and is 23rd in BAA (.262). If the Indians can blow up Zimmerman on Friday night, the Tigers could be in for a nightmare of a weekend if they have to rely on their bullpen to win games. Also, as a reminder, the Cleveland Indians have the best bullpen in baseball according to ERA (2.57) and are 3rd in terms of BAA (.214).

Detroit Tigers roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    4
    (21 votes)
  • 49%
    3
    (86 votes)
  • 28%
    2
    (49 votes)
  • 4%
    1
    (8 votes)
  • 5%
    0
    (9 votes)
173 votes total Vote Now