Detroit vs. Seattle preview: The Tigers will need need some bullpen day magic

Bless You Boys

Bullpen games are always a bit of a mystery bag. Maybe it’s the diminished expectations, knowing that the team is in for a taxing day with a lot of their depth guys getting work, but it feels like often offenses fail to take advantage the way you’d expect. The Tigers have a pretty solid spot starter in Tyler Alexander leading the way. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess what happens today.

However, Alexander has done this before, and the Mariners’ offense is not very imposing. They aren’t exactly stacked with dangerous right handed hitters beyond Mitch Haniger. And this is the same pitcher who punched nine tickets in a row back on August 2nd, 2020 against the Cincinnati Reds. We haven’t seen the same quality of slider from Alexander often, but he’s remained a fairly stable presence as the Tigers long man this season.

Alexander holds quite good strikeout and walk numbers, but a rough set of appearances to start the 2021 season still has his numbers looking rather crooked. He posted a 6.14 FIP and 4.97 ERA in April, but a 1.70 FIP and 3.00 ERA in May says things have improved. Alexander hasn’t thrown since June 4th against the Chicago White Sox, when he allowed a solo shot in an inning of work, so he should be well rested. Let’s hope the slider is working.

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m. EDT, Comerica Park

Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.tv, Tigers Radio Network

SB Nation Site: Lookout Landing

Pitching Matchup: LHP Tyler Alexander (0-0, 4.56 ERA) vs. LHP Justus Sheffield (5-4, 4.77 ERA)

Game 62 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Alexander 23.2 5.04 23.1 4.8 2.28 -0.1
Sheffield 54.2 4.75 17.1 9.3 1.15 0.2

Seattle’s Justus Sheffield isn’t looking even as impressive as Alexander, at least in terms of their strikeout-to-walk numbers. Sheffield’s strikeout rate has fallen off from his expectations as a prospect, and the only thing keeping him a viable starter is the reasonably amount of home runs allowed. Sheffield gets plenty of ground balls, but this year the contact has been pretty loud, with a 10.7 barrel percentage speaking to plenty of hard contact.

Sheffield’s bread and butter is his low 90’s sinker. He’ll use a solid slider against left handed hitters, while he breaks out the changeup a lot against right handers. It’s pretty prototypical stuff, delivered with decent but not impressive command in most outings. Still, viewed as a backend starter type, rather than the formerly good pitching prospect he was, Sheffield is generally pretty effective and should give the Mariners a decent outing.

Key Matchup: Tigers offense vs. Tigers bullpen

Baseball is weird, and any single game is impossible to predict. We often expect disaster on a day like this, and instead get surprisingly good work from the bullpen. Maybe it’s the low expectations. Still, it would obviously behoove the Tigers to do some damage. The mid to late innings are likely to rest on the arms of guys like Jason Foley, Joe Jiménez, and just recalled Alex Lange. Hopefully right handed power hitters like Jonathan Schoop, Eric Haase, and Miguel Cabrera—c’mon Miguel—have a good day and can do some damage, while the Tigers many switch hitters do their part and get on base. It’s probably going to take a really good offensive effort to take the game, and the series, before the danged Chicago White Sox roll into town on Friday for more fun.

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