Tigers at Rays Preview: Detroit looks to avoid series loss behind Tarik Skubal

Bless You Boys

So far, not good for the Detroit Tigers in their four-game road series against the Tampa Bay Rays. After dropping the first game on Thursday night, 5-2, the good guys made a valiant effort to even the series but fell short in extra innings, 7-4. Because it is an even number of games between the two teams, Detroit still has a chance to walk away with a split if things go well.

Today’s matchup appears to be one that the Tigers might have a fighting chance in. Unfortunately, Tampa’s starter last night went much deeper into the game than I predicted in my preview and the bullpen ended up getting spared the attrition I expected, so there will be no feasting on a depleted relief corps.

Nonetheless, the Tigers turn to one of their top pitching prospects who has been showing steady improvement while the floppy fishes send a struggling veteran to the hill on Saturday. Here is how the two match up.

Detroit Tigers (70-78) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (92-56)

Time/Place: 4:10 p.m., Tropicana Field
SB Nation site: DRays Bay
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (8-12, 4.21 ERA) vs. LHP Ryan Yarbrough (8-5, 5.27 ERA)

Game 149 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Skubal 139.0 27.0 7.8 4.88 1.1
Yarbrough 138.0 17.9 4.4 4.44 1.3

Much like his compadre Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal’s second season in the big leagues is winding down as the end of the schedule nears. The 24-year-old has thrown only three innings in each of his last two games — both in September — tossing 50 and 49 pitches in the two, respectively.

Against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sept. 6, the lefty surrendered two runs on four hits and a home run while striking out four; he blanked the Rays on Sept. 12 allowing a single hit and a walk while striking out six. If he can replicate that performance to start today’s game, Skubal’s team has a good chance in this one.

Ryan Yarbrough toes the rubber for Tampa having had his worst season in the majors this summer according to both his traditional and advanced stats. The main bright spot for the 29-year-old has been his low walk rate, otherwise, everything else seems to be trending in the wrong direction for the crafty lefthander.

According to Baseball Savant, Yarbrough possesses a four-pitch-plus-one arsenal headlined by an 82 mph cutter that gets used 41 percent of the time, a 79 mph changeup (28 percent), 71 mph curveball (17 percent) and a 86 mph sinker (13 percent); the plus-one is an 84 mph four-seam fastball he has thrown just eight times this year. Tampa’s hurler today is the quintessential “soft-tossing lefty” that has haunted Tigers teams for over a decade.

Key Matchup: The bullpen, again

This time around, it is going to be incumbent upon the Tigers bullpen to pull the team through. Skubal is clearly on a workload taper and will be limited to three innings/50 pitches maximum; the bullpen has been pretty heavily taxed the last couple of days and will see a lot of usage today. But if Detroit has any chance in this game, they will need to score more than a couple of runs to give their relief corps a cushion to work with.

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