It has been a lot of fun being a Detroit Tigers fan in recent days, especially during the team’s seven-game winning streak coming out of the All-Star break gates. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and the aphorism proved true once again on Friday night when the Kansas City Royals handed the Motor City Kitties their first loss since the midsummer classic by a score of 5-3. But when one door closes, another opens, and that door for the Tigers is the beginning of another winning streak as they continue their charge toward the .500 mark and beyond.
On Saturday, the two teams send a pair of young pitchers to the mound in the second game of the three-game weekend series. For Detroit, its emerging top prospect will toe the rubber looking to continue building on a strong sophomore campaign; Kansas City sends a fireballer to the hill who is working on moving out of the bullpen into the rotation. Here is how the two match up with each other.
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m. EDT, Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation Site: Royals Review
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Casey Mize (5-5, 3.44 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Hernández (1-1, 4.91 ERA)
Game 100 Pitching Matchup
Former number one draft pick Casey Mize is really coming into his own this season, though it has not been without some growing pains. Over the course of his second year in the big leagues, his numbers have oscillated from month to month. Taking a coarse look at his traditional stats in April, he averaged three earned runs surrendered over five games which was influenced heavily by a pair of starts in which he gave up five and six runs in his third and fourth appearances, respectively.
In May he hunkered down, allowing just 1.2 earned runs per game with a high of two — he only allowed a single run in the other four — while June saw a little bit of regression as he surrendered 2.6 earned runs per game, allowing three in four of his five starts. In July, things have found a bit of middle ground as he has given up a pair of runs twice and held his opponent in his most recent outing scoreless.
Mighty Mize has faced Kansas City four times already this season, getting banged up for his worst outing of the year — the aforementioned six-run game — in April while giving up just three total runs to the Royals in his two May starts; he gave up three runs in a mid-June start in which he pitched 6 2⁄3 innings to earn the win. After that first blip it appears that the 24-year-old righty is getting a feel for his American League Central Division foe.
Carlos Hernández is a young pitcher for the Royals who is still getting his feet wet in the big leagues. He only has a total of 40 1⁄3 major league innings between this season and last, amazingly logging the exact same ERA in 2020 as he has so far in 2021 (4.91) while posting an ugly cumulative 1.64 WHIP to go with a 1-2 record. He had been utilized as a reliever exclusively this season until his last appearance — a start against the Baltimore Orioles in which he threw four innings of two-run ball, allowing three hits and a pair of walks while striking out six and hitting one batter over 78 pitches in the losing effort.
The 24-year-old right-hander gets by with a repertoire that is headlined by a blazing 98 mph sinker that he uses 36 percent of the time, along with an 82 mph curveball that sees 23 percent usage, a 97 mph four-seamer that he utilizes 19 percent of the time, an 86 mph slider at 16 percent and an 89 mph changeup at seven percent. Hernández’s fastball velocity is in the 99th percentile and fastball spin is in the 76th percentile, according to Baseball Savant, touching 100 mph at times. While the hard-throwing sinkerballer racks up the strikeouts with his potent arsenal, he seems to struggle a bit with his command allowing an inflated walk rate to go along with his impressive K numbers. However, one thing he definitely has going for him is home run suppression: he has only allowed two dingers this season.
Key Matchup: Bats vs Hernández
Saturday’s pitcher for the Royals is one of those guys that things can either go extremely well or extremely poorly against. The right-hander’s devastating strikeout arsenal should strike fear in the hearts of Tigers fans, whose team is the second-worst in the majors when it comes to whiffs having amassed 957 so far in 2021 — 27 Ks behind the MLB-worst Tampa Bay Rays. On the other hand, he gives up a lot of walks and his home run suppression is not terribly worrisome as the Tigers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to sending the ball over the fence. The key will be patience and taking whatever Hernández gives them, and with Mize on the mound, there is a very strong chance the Olde English D starts another winning streak if the offense can break through.