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Series preview: Guardians at Tigers

Is this the series where José Ramírez heats up?

Arizona Diamondbacks v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Patrick Mulligan/Getty Images

In recent years there has never been anything quite like playing the Tigers to relieve the stress of an MLB season. The Guards haven’t had a losing record against Detroit since they were 7-11 in 2015, and in most seasons since they have come out way ahead.

Last year was different, however, as the Tigers put up a fight and narrowly lost the head-to-head matchup, 10-9. Cleveland could really use the Tigers of old to show up today after dropping two of three to the Yankees and letting one slip through their fingers against the worst team in baseball on Sunday.

Cleveland’s battered rotation will be put to the test over the next three days. While the Tigers may be the second-lowest scoring team in baseball, they are still a team in baseball and Hunter Gaddis has proven that he struggles against teams in baseball. Tuesday will feature Peyton Battenfield in just his second career start, so there is at least a little tape on him for the Tigers to work with. If you recall, he shut down the Yankees over 4.2 innings in his debut last week, but baseball success is a fickle thing.

The Guardians will face two lefties this series, but so far they have actually fared a little better against southpaws (.316 team wOBA) than right-handers (.302 team wOBA). Part of that is because they have faced righties like Gerrit Cole, Luis Castillo, and Logan Gilbert twice. As long as Josh Naylor continues to struggle against lefties and Will Brennan is hard platooned against them for whatever reason, there is cause for concern when someone who has to use special scissors takes the mound.

Game 1 starter Matthew Boyd sports a low-90s fastball with a high spin rate, a slider, changeup, and a curveball. All but 20 of Boyd’s 806.2 career innings have come with the Tigers. His brief stint in Seattle last year was only 10 appearances out of the bullpen, but he pitched well with a 1.35 ERA and 24.5% strikeout rate. The one issue he had coming out of the pen was issuing walks, which he did at a career-worst 15.1% clip.

Well, career-worst at the time because he’s on pace for an even worse 17.1% walk rate this season. In his two starts back with the Tigers he has walked seven batters and struck out seven batters. The Guardians have the 11th-highest walk rate against lefties this season (10%), so they might be looking to see a lot of pitches and ramp up Boyd’s pitch count early and often.

Eduardo Rodriguez will take Tuesday’s start against Battenfield. Rodriguez is the prototypical crafty veteran lefty that limits hard contact but doesn’t generate a lot of swings and misses. He pounds the strikezone with upwards of five pitches: a 92 mph four-seamer, cutter, change, sinker, and rarely-used slider. He started 17 games with the Tigers last season but missed three months of the year with an undisclosed family matter. He made an emotional return to the mound in August and finished out the year with the Tigers.

And finally, Game 3 will pit Cal Quantrill against righty Spencer Turnbull. It’s hard to believe that Turnbull is 30 already since he has been in the league for six years and only made 56 starts due to various injuries. His last start prior to 2023 came on June 4, 2021; he missed the rest of 2021 and all of 2022 following Tommy John surgery.

After a rough couple of starts to begin his 2023 journey, Turnbull pitched a solid five innings against the Blue Jays his last time out, with six hits, one earned run, six strikeouts, and a walk. His five-pitch mix consists of a four-seamer, slider, sinker, changeup, and curveball. That changeup, in particular, has been a killer so far this season, generating a whiff 44.4% of the time in its limited usage.

The Tigers are still waiting for second-year third baseman Spencer Torkelson to live up to the prospect hype, but so far this season he is slashing just .214/.220/.321 with a home run. Their best offensive player thus far is, of course — everybody say it together now — Jake Rogers. Wait, who?

A former third-round pick of the Astros, Rogers came over as part of the Justin Verlander trade in 2017 that has been a resounding thud for the Tigers. In addition to Rogers, they also got Daz Cameron and Franklin Pérez in the deal — the former is currently toiling away in Baltimore’s farm system, and the latter has yet to make it to the majors as injuries have stunted his career before it even began. Needless to say, Rogers is Detroit’s last hope at recouping some kind of value from the trade, and so far he’s off to a good start this season after missing all of 2022 following his own bout with Tommothy Jonathan’s favorite surgery.

Rogers currently leads the Tigers with a 132 wRC+ and is slashing .231/.310/.538 with two home runs in 29 plate appearances. The catcher isn’t listed as having an injury, but he hasn’t played since Friday. It’s reasonable to assume that the Tigers taking it slow with a guy who hasn’t played much baseball in the last 18 months, but if he’s not injured he should be behind the dish sometime this series.

I’m a big Riley Greene fan — even as someone who wishes nothing but misfortune for his team — but he hasn’t been able to improve upon the disappointing offense he showed in his rookie season. He’s slashing .232/.295/.357 through 14 games, though he is riding a two-game hit streak. Silver linings.

There is a minor chance of rain for tonight’s game, but even if it doesn’t hit this is going to be a chilly series, hovering in the mid- to low-40s today and tomorrow. Highs are not expected to reach 60 until Wednesday, and with the early start for the finale, they will still probably be playing in 50-degree temps. The only warmth the Guardians will find this series is if their bats finally heat up.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 5-9
  • Runs scored: 50
  • Run differential: -37
  • Last 10: 4-6
  • Slash: .208/.273/.327
  • wOBA: .269
  • wRC+: 67
  • ERA: 5.87
  • SIERA: 4.69
  • K-BB%: 9.5%

Projected starters

Monday, April 17, 6:40 p.m. ET: LHP Matthew Boyd vs. RHP Hunter Gaddis
Tuesday, April 18, 6:40 p.m. ET: RHP Eduardo Rodriguez vs. RHP Peyton Battenfield
Wednesday, April 19, 1:10 p.m. ET: LHP Spencer Turnbull vs. RHP Cal Quantrill



How many games will the Guardians win against the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    (32 votes)
  • 45%
    (43 votes)
  • 11%
    (11 votes)
  • 9%
    (9 votes)
95 votes total Vote Now