For a while there, the Detroit Tigers were really chugging along, winning seven-straight games coming out of the All-Star break. However, the streak was halted by the Kansas City Royals, who swept the Tigers out of Kauffman Stadium kicking off a four-game skid for the good guys. However, after a series-opening loss to the Minnesota Twins, Detroit took the final two games to seize the three-game set in the Twin Cities. Which brings us to this weekend’s four-game series with the Baltimore Orioles in the comfy confines of Comerica Park.
The Tigers took the first game on Thursday night, 6-2, in a well-balanced attack that saw up-and-comer Casey Mize perform brilliantly while Miguel Cabrera had a bit of a turn-back-the-clock night for himself. The victory gave Detroit its third-straight win with a chance to keep the streak going behind another rising pitching prospect. Meanwhile, the O’s send a grizzled veteran to the hill who is, um, well over the hill in terms of being past his prime. Here is a look at the pitching matchup for Friday night’s affair as the Tigers celebrate their annual Negro Leagues Weekend.
Detroit Tigers (50-55) vs. Baltimore Orioles (35-66)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m. EDT, Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: Camden Chat
Game 106 Pitching Matchup
As I mentioned in my previous preview for Tarik Skubal, the young lefty has experienced a rollercoaster season in terms of his performance, at times looking brilliant and others looking well over-matched. His stretch from May to June was a solid one, putting up a 3.23 ERA over 55 2⁄3 innings while striking out 76 against just 22 walks, but July has been mostly a sharp regression for the 24-year-old hurler. In four games this month, Skuby has a 5.73 ERA over four starts, logging 22 innings allowing 16 hits and six home runs while striking out 19 and walking two. His last game was among his worst so far, surrendering five runs on five hits — three of them home runs — while striking out four and walking none in five innings against KC. Things have not been looking great for one of Detroit’s most prized pitching prospects.
Up against Skubal is nine-year veteran Matt Harvey, who is with his fourth major league team after signing with Baltimore in February on a free-agent contract. The 2013 Cy Young Award candidate is long separated from his peak, having put up very unimpressive numbers since his last good season in 2015. This year has not been any different, though he has been a bit more serviceable than that past couple of campaigns. While his current ERA looks like it fell out of the ugly tree, his FIP suggests that he has been a bit unlucky, though it is very easy to get bitten by bad luck when your WHIP is 1.58.
These days, the 32-year-old gets by with an arsenal headlined by a 93.4 mph four-seamer that gets used 38 percent of the time, along with an 86.7 mph slider that is utilized 19.7 percent of the time and a 93 mph sinker he has re-introduced to his repertoire that is used at the same rate, an 80.3 mph curveball at 12 percent usage and an 85.2 mph changeup that sees action 11 percent of the time. While his fastball velocity is a tick slower than in his prime (96.6 mph average sinker in 2015) he still sits right in the middle of the pack when it comes to his need for speed. Here is a look at how he stacks up against his peers, according to Baseball Savant.
Key Matchup: Skubal vs. Orioles’ offense
Baltimore sits in the bottom half of the league in pretty much all of the important offensive categories, including 21st in the majors in home runs. The dinger factor is an important one, as Skubal’s homeritis can be blamed for a good deal of the younger’s woes this month. He will have his hands full with right-handed slugger Trey Mancini — who finished second in this summer’s home run derby — and Ryan Mountcastle; the O’s other big hitter Cedric Mullins hit from the left side, which should be advantageous to Detroit’s hurler. If Skubal can keep the ball in the park, Detroit’s offense should be able to score enough to extend the winning streak to four on Friday.