Tigers vs. Astros preview: Skubal looks to split weekend series with Houston

Bless You Boys

The Detroit Tigers have a chance to split their four-game weekend series with the Houston Astros on Sunday with a win behind one of their emerging prospect pitchers. After dropping Thursday’s tilt 12-3, a rainout on Friday forced a doubleheader on Saturday, in which the two teams split with Detroit taking the first game 3-1 behind Casey Mize while dropping the second 3-2 in a bullpen affair. In the process, the good guys lost another pitcher to injury, this time it was de facto closer Michael Fulmer, who was sent to the injured list (again) with a right cervical spine sprain. Ugh, what a pain in the neck.

Nonetheless, the game will go on — weather notwithstanding — as the Tigers continue to fight and claw through a season that has presented no shortage of challenges. On Sunday, they will have plenty on their plate as they send their young greenhorn out to face a grizzled veteran seeking the series split. Here is a look at the pitching matchup for the fourth and final game.

Detroit Tigers (33-44) vs. Houston Astros (48-29)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: Crawfish Boxes
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (4-7, 4.33 ERA) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (2-3, 4.75 ERA)

Game 78 Pitching Matchups

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Skubal 70.2 27.2 10.6 5.21 0.2
Odorizzi 30.1 28.9 7.4 3.87 0.5

Tarik Skubal gets his first career appearance against the Astros when he takes the bump for the Tigers. The 24-year-old has started to settle down this season after a few early hiccups, putting up traditional numbers that do not exactly jump off the screen but also representative of positive growth in his second big league season.

The left-hander’s stats in June are rather solid, with his best outing of the season coming on June 5 when he struck out 11 Chicago White Sox hitters over five innings, allowing just one run along with three walks with a season-high 103 pitches for a notch in the win column. In four games this month, the studly sophomore has tossed 21 23 innings allowing 21 hits, 10 runs (nine earned), 10 walks and three home runs while striking out 28 on an average of just under 97 pitches per outing to earn a pair of wins. Hopefully, things continue to trend in the right direction for Detroit’s highly-heralded prospect.

Jake Odorizzi is no stranger to the Tigers, having pitched for the Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins before signing as a free agent with Houston during spring training this year. The 10-year veteran struggled in limited work during the COVID-ravaged 2020 season and appears to have bounced back for the most part — though his ERA is currently the third-worst of his career, behind last year and his rooking campaign. His FIP, however, suggests that he is having some bad luck and his WHIP is at a career-low 1.02, which also hints that the 31-year-old is doing better than his ERA suggests.

The right-hander’s repertoire is dominated by his four-seam fastball (92.4 mph) which gets used a career-high 59.3 percent of the time, while his primary offspeed offering is the split-finger (84.8) which sees 16.6 percent usage, while the cutter (88.1 mph), slider (83.3 mph) and curveball (73.7 mph) are utilized 10.5, 10.1 and 3.6 percent of the time, respectively. The results have been fairly decent, and among his peers, Odorizzi excels in a few categories, per Baseball Savant.

Baseball Savant

The long story short here is that Big Jake poses a tougher matchup for the Tigers than what might appear at first glance. However, if Detroit can manage to punish his fastball things could turn out well for them.

Key Matchup: Tigers bullpen vs. heavy workload

In some ways, you could consider Saturday’s doubleheader a blessing in disguise as it trimmed off four innings of work for both teams’ pitching staffs thanks to the seven-inning rule for double-dips. However, behind the mask was an injury to one of Detroit’s most important bullpen pieces in Michael Fulmer, as well as a bullpen day in the second game, which has once again stretched things thin. There is a good chance the fans will get their first glimpse of Miguel Del Pozo, who was called up to take Fulmy’s place on the roster ahead of the game. In two seasons of big-league pitching stretching over 22 appearances for 13 total innings of work, the 28-year-old has never notched an ERA under 10 while carrying a career FIP of 7.90 and a WHIP of 2.54. Hopefully, Skubal can eat some innings and keep the soft underbelly of the bullpen unexposed to the Astros’ offense.

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