A week ago, the Detroit Tigers headed to Oakland off of an impressive sweep of the Astros and a winning percentage back up to .500. All of those good feelings are long gone, though, after dropping all four to the Athletics and two of three against Pittsburgh. The offense averaged just over two runs a game during this pathetic stretch.
Typically, facing the Royals would be seen as a nice way to reset, but Kansas City sits atop the AL Central right now, having won six of the past nine. The season is still very young, but it feels important for Detroit to get back on track and at least split the four-game set. The bats definitely need to wake up, but a bounce back by Casey Mize would go a long way as well.
The (former?) top prospect started the year well, including a strong seven scoreless innings against Houston, but that all was reversed in Oakland; the A’s launched three homers in the first two innings and scored five runs over Mize’s five innings. He still has been fine overall to start 2021, but he will want to rebound after such a rough outing his last time out.
Detroit Tigers (7-12) vs. Kansas City Royals (10-7)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park Park
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Casey Mize (1-1, 3.38 ERA) vs. LHP Mike Minor (1-1, 5.17 ERA)
Game 20 Pitching Matchup
Apparently Mike Minor is a Royal again, signing a two-year deal in the offseason. He was a very effective reliever his first time in Kansas City, posting a 2.55 ERA over 65 appearances out of the bullpen in 2017. His next two seasons were decent with the Rangers, but he struggled in both Texas and Oakland last year, ending with a 5.56 ERA over 12 games.
2020 can be thrown out the window for most players, but Minor has not quite been lockdown to start the new year. Twice he has given up four runs, and he is featuring worse home run and strikeout numbers than his career averages. He should get better as the season progresses, but the 33-year-old sat at just 90.8 mph his last start, bringing some cause for concern.
As for the Royals lineup, it’s been a mixed bag in the early going. Whit Merrifield, Carlos Santana, and Salvador Perez are all off to good starts at the plate. On the other hand, shortstop Adalberto Mondesi remains out of their lineup, while Hunter Dozier has struggled. Their new look outfield has seen Michael A. Taylor in productive form in centerfield, while Andrew Benintendi has really struggled. Not exactly a murderer’s row, but the Royals always seem to hit Tigers’ pitching unless we’re really sharp.
Key matchup: Detroit batters vs. a hittable pitcher
The Tigers offense is in very rough shape, but maybe Minor will be the antidote. His velocity is down a little, and while his CSW—called + swinging strike— rate is staying steady, he is not by any means a dominant pitcher. It may not be a banner day at the plate, but hopefully Detroit can find a way to at least put up enough runs to give Mize a shot.
A lot of this starts with plate discipline, but extra base hits have been extremely hard to come by as well. As great as it would be to see Mize put forth a good outing — ultimately the thing from this game that truly matters most in the big picture — the short term trajectory of this team hinges on the offense’s ability to at least look competitive.