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Guardians return home to face suddenly surging Tigers

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The Tigers are ... good?

Cleveland Indians v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

As if this season wasn’t bad enough already, the Detroit Tigers are starting to look like a competitive team again. Yes, the same Detroit Tigers that traumatized Cleveland throughout the first half of the 2010’s are slowly emerging from their rebuilding cocoon.

Granted, this still isn’t the same Tigers of old, and there is no guarantee they will be. Miguel Cabrera is still there, but he’s not the same Miguel Cabrera. Their emergence this time around is supposed to be built on homegrown pitching with Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Tarik Skubal as their version of the Big Three. All three have looked like you would expect rookie pitchers on a mostly bad team to look so far this season, but the potential is clearly there.

The Tigers have climbed from 36-45 and 11 games back of the AL Central-leading White Sox on July 1 to now sitting just five games under .500 at 53-58. They’re still a ways away from the division leader — as everyone in the Central is — but they are within striking distance of catching the Guardians and potentially earning their first second-place finish in the division since they won 86 games in 2016.

It hasn’t been pitching that’s carried them, though. That honor goes to old friend Eric Haase, who has suddenly found the nitro button in Detroit. The 28-year-old, who was designated for assignment by the Guardians and traded to Detroit prior to the 2020 season, is slashing .247/.299/.543 with 18 home runs and a 124 wRC+. Half of those home runs as well as five doubles have come since the beginning of July.

Along with Haase, the Tigers have stayed afloat with everyone in their lineup at least being above-average. They have seemingly no superstars at the plate, but no one is a black hole every single day. Six Tigers batters have at least 200 plate appearances on the season with a wRC+ over 110, meaning they have been roughly 10% better than the average hitter. Add a superstar like Carlos Correa into the mix for next year and suddenly the Tigers are a scary offense again.

These two will play a three-game set over the weekend in perfect Clveland baseball weather, then head to Detroit next week to wrap up the season series.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 53-58 (11th in AL)
  • Runs Scored: 490 (8th in AL)
  • Run Differential: -44 (10th in AL)
  • Last 10: 6-4
  • Slash: .242/.311/.401
  • wOBA: .310 (10th in AL)
  • wRC+: 95 (10th in AL)
  • ERA: 4.51 (9th in AL)
  • SIERA: 4.46 (14th in AL)
  • K-BB%: 11.7% (15th in AL)

Projected starters

Friday, Aug. 6, 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Matt Manning vs. Cal Quantrill
Matt Manning was rocked in his only outing against Cleveland this year, to the tune of nine earned runs over 3.2 innings. That was by far his worst start of the year, but certainly not his only struggles. The 23-year-old has bounced between Triple-A and the majors after looking like he may have been rushed to face MLB hitters.

Manning is not about to blow anyone away with high cheese, but he aims to limit hard contact with a five-pitch mix. It hasn’t worked, though, and his Statacst measurements don’t point to bad luck being the issue.

Saturday, Aug. 7, 7:10 p.m. ET: LHP Tyler Alexander vs. Eli Morgan
Saturday will mark Tyler Alexander’s seventh start of the season after pitching much of the year out of the bullpen. He has faced Cleveland on five separate occasions this season and allowed at least one earned run in each of his first three outings against them. Last time out, on June 28, he held Cleveland scoreless over his one relief inning.

Alexander has an elite walk rate at 5.8% and has fooled batters into chasing pitches out of the zone 27.1% of the time. He primarily throws a cutter along with a four-seamer, changeup, and slider.

Sunday, Aug. 8, 1:10 p.m. ET: RHP Wily Peralta vs. Zach Plesac
Somehow Wily Peralta is only 32 years old. He’s one of those pitchers that feels like he’s been around forever, but this is “only” his 12th major-league season. It’s also his first in Detroit and he’s holding down the fort nicely with a 3.47 ERA in 46.2 innings. His 14.1% strikeout rate, if it holds, would be a tick below his career average.

Peralta struck out five Guardians in his last outing against them, holding Cleveland scoreless over five innings.

Hot hitters

3B, Jeimer Candelario - After a mini-breakout last year, 27-year-old Jeimer Candelario is in the midst of another pretty good year, slashing .277/.362/.412 with seven home runs. He’s unlikely to pass his career-high 19 homers from 2018 but he’s looking like a much more well-rounded hitter than he did back then. He leads the Tigers with seven hits over the last week, along with two doubles and three walks.

2B, Jonathan Schoop - Jonathan Schoop is tied with Candelario at seven hits over the last week, and he has a homer as well. That’s one of 18 dingers on the season for him and he’s well on his way to his third 100-or-better wRC+ season in the last four years.

Roster

Poll

How many games will the Guardians win against the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    3
    (13 votes)
  • 45%
    2
    (37 votes)
  • 24%
    1
    (20 votes)
  • 14%
    0
    (12 votes)
82 votes total Vote Now