West coast road trips, especially Anaheim visits to play against the Angels, have historically been brutal on the Detroit Tigers and Friday night’s game was a perfect demonstration of that fact. After dropping the first of the four-game series on Thursday after Matt Manning’s major league debut and a gritty fight by the good guys, L.A. unloaded on José Ureña to run away with an 11-3 victory.
At this point, the best the boys in the Olde English D can do is split the weekend series — a tall task for this team, especially given attrition the lineup has suffered by the brutal bite of the injury bug. Because the starting rotation has been depleted by injuries, the Tigers are sending one of their newcomers to the mound for their starting debut with the club. He will be facing a young up-and-comer for the Angels who is starting to find his footing in the majors. Here is a look at what is in store for Saturday night.
Time/Place: 10:07 p.m. EDT, Angel Stadium of Anaheim
SB Nation Site: Halos Heaven
Pitching Matchup: RHP Wily Peralta (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. LHP Patrick Sandoval (1-2, 3.51 ERA)
Game 71 Pitching Matchup
The Tigers send Wily Peralta to the mound with hopes that the 32-year-old can eat some innings and keep things close against Los Angeles. The veteran right-hander was signed in the offseason as a free agent and has spent most of his 2021 campaign so far warming up in the minors. He has appeared in one game for Detroit, tossing 1 1⁄3 innings of shutout ball allowing just a walk while striking out one against his former team the Kansas City Royals just a few days ago on June 15, earning a hold.
However, looking back further, Peralta has not started a major league game since May 14, 2017, with the Milwaukee Brewers, when a tough outing permanently ejected him from the rotation that season. He then pitched exclusively as a reliever with K.C. the next two years before signing on in the Motor City. His stat line from the 2020 campaign is quite underwhelming, throwing 40 1⁄3 innings for a 5.80 ERA, 5.84 FIP and a 1.59 WHIP, walking 19 while striking out 24 en route to a 2-3 record.
Last season, Peralta featured a five-pitch arsenal comprised of a four-seam fastball, slider, changeup, sinker and curveball, which he employed respectively according to Baseball Savant. This year so far, he has only used his four-seamer and slider, though interestingly his four-seam velocity in 2020 and 2021 are an identical 94.3 mph. Ostensibly, slick Wily will be expected to get through as many innings as he can, so it is very likely his other three pitches will make an appearance on Saturday.
Opposite Peralta is Patrick Sandoval, a young left-hander who is finding his groove this season after an ugly 2020 showing. The third-year hurler gets by on a palette of five pitches, led by his changeup (84.7 mph) at a 34.4 percent usage rate, followed by his four-seam fastball (93.7 mph) at 27.3 percent, sinker (93.7 mph) at 18.2 percent, slider (86.8 mph) at 11.3 percent and curveball (78.6 mph) at 8.9 percent usage. Interestingly, he switched from the four-seamer to the changeup as his prevailing pitch this season, essentially working backward now on the mound, while also adding the sinker to his repertoire.
Also interesting is that over his two-plus season in the bigs Sandoval has never pitched against Detroit. Taking a look at his 2021 campaign so far, the 24-year-old began in the bullpen for his first three appearances before getting promoted to the starting rotation. As a starter, he has thrown 20 innings allowing 20 hits, seven runs (six earned), six walks and two home runs while striking out 19 and hitting a pair of batters for a sparkling 2.70 ERA. He also appears to have stretched out a bit, tossing four innings in his first start, five in his next two and then six innings in the two starts ahead of Saturday’s game.
His best game yet was on June 6 against the Seattle Mariners, in which he threw six innings and despite giving up three runs (two earned) he struck out 10 over 101 pitches in the losing effort. Sandoval appears to be one of those types of pitchers that tend to give the Tigers fits if they are not careful.
Key Matchup: Detroit vs. Anaheim, California
It feels like no matter what the numbers say or how things are trending, the Tigers are bound to get beat on the road against the Angels. Sure, we can talk about how Peralta needs to effectively eat innings or how Sandoval looks scarier than his traditional stats suggest or even that the Tigers’ right-handed hitters need to get it goin’, but the fact of the matter is Angel Stadium of Anaheim is one of the most difficult places on the planet for Detroit to steal a win. Much like the sticky stuff the stadium crew creates for its pitchers, a win for the Tigers today requires a special concoction of mojo, sweat and a lot of luck.