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Series preview: Cleveland vs. Tigers

You again?!

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Well, well, well, look who it is. The team Cleveland just played a week ago. Thank you, MLB schedulers, for making the first week of the season such a thrill.

The good news with this series is that it will finally bring back some normalcy to Cleveland’s schedule. Friday will mark their first night game of the season, and they will play a whopping 10 games in a row before they get another day to sit home and be blacked out from watching locally televised games. This comes after playing one game in the last three days, and just five games since Opening Day.

Cleveland will also be looking to bring a sense of normalcy to their offense. After being shut out in their home opener Monday, José Ramírez carried the team on his back Wednesday, notching the team’s only two runs in a 4-2 win to split the series with the Royals.

The Tigers, meanwhile, came out of their 2-1 series win over Cleveland and were blown out by the Twins, 15-6, in the first game of that series, before splitting the next two. Tigers rookie Akil Baddoo — who hit the first pitch he saw against Shane Bieber for an opposite field home run on Opening Day — absolutely traumatized Minnesota, the team that let him go in the Rule 5 draft last December.

Still, Detroit is Detroit; they are rebuilding. And against any team but Cleveland, their pitching has issues. Cleveland will see Julio Teheran and Tarik Skubal again this series. While Cleveland has not announced their pitchers beyond Plesac as of this writing, it’s likely to be Aaron Civale and the Logan Allen/Triston McKenzie tag-team going on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Team in a box

2021 Detroit Tigers

Record: 3-3
Runs Scored: 23
Run Differential: 34
Last 10: 3-3
AVG .223
OBP .298
SLG .389
OPS .687
wRC+ 91
ERA 5.4
SIERA 4.47
K-BB% 11.30%

Projected starters

Friday, April 9, 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Julio Teheran vs. Zach Plesac
Teheran hasn’t pitched since his April 3 start against Cleveland, so you can mentally copy and paste my preview from that series preview here. In that game he held Cleveland to just one run off four hits, with three walks and three strikeouts over five innings. Going by FanGraphs’ Game Score Version 2.0 (which is an imperfect, but fun, way to look at how a pitcher performed in any given game), that start was a 49 — his best since he faced the Padres on Sept. 2, 2020 as a member of the Angels. Then he struck out two over five innings of work, allowed two earned runs, and had a GSv2 of 50.

Saturday, April 10, 6:10 p.m. ET: LHP Tarik Skubal vs. TBD
Once again, Skubal hasn’t pitched since last week so copy/paste as you wish. He’s a promising young pitcher with a rocky rookie year behind him but still a lot of potential. In his start against Cleveland he finished with four strikeouts, two walks, and two earned runs over 5.1 innings.

Sunday, April 11, 1:10 p.m. ET: RHP José Ureña vs. TBD
Now we’re getting something juicy — a new pitcher. José Ureña made his 2021 debut against the Twins, where he allowed five earned runs over three innings and struck out five. The Twins jumped on him immediately, with a run in the first inning and five more in the second when Nelson Cruz hit a devastating grand slam. Ureña pitched a perfect third inning before being replaced by Buck Farmer, who, shockingly, also gave up a home run to Nelson Cruz.

Ureña is primarily a sinker/slider pitcher with an occasional four-seamer and changeup mixed in against lefties. I don’t know that the 29-year-old will ever put it together and become more than a back-of-the-rotation starter at this point, but he has slowly added some drop to his sinker every year, so maybe he’s inching towards something. Right now he has a 15.00 ERA, though.

Lineup highlights

OF, Akil Baddoo - I mean, who else would I preview here? For anyone who loves an underdog tale, Akil Baddoo is the story of 2021 so far. Plucked from the Twins in last year’s Rule 5 draft, Baddoo has shot out of the gate with his new team with two home runs, seven runs batted in, and a triple for good measure. He’s 5-for-11 in four games and is slugging (~slugging~) 1.182. This is all entirely absurd and not sustainable (neither is his .429 BABIP), but honestly who cares? We’re allowed to look at small samples and marvel at them. And that’s exactly what Baddoo is so far in his career — a marvel.

2B, Niko Goodrum - After showing some promise early in his Tigers career, Niko Goodrum absolutely cratered offensively in 2020, with a .184/.263/.335 slash in 43 games. He’s off to a much better start in 2021, going 4-for-12 with a walk and a double in his three games. In a very small sample size, his hard-hit rate is creeping back to where it was in 2019, and he hasn’t swung and missed as much as in years passed — that’s good news for the Tigers, bad news for Cleveland. Even if he can’t hit, he’s turned himself into a serviceable defender. At least based on outs above average, which had him in the 98th percentile last year and the 94th in 2019.

Tigers roster


How many games will Cleveland win against the Tigers?

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  • 23%
    (25 votes)
  • 57%
    (62 votes)
  • 13%
    (15 votes)
  • 5%
    (6 votes)
108 votes total Vote Now