We are finally seeing signs of life from the Detroit Tigers’ offense. Most of the lineup still looks pretty atrocious by the numbers, but a few more hitters have finally gotten it going. It’s shown up in the win-loss column as they’ve won five of their last ten, shown a little more punch, and played much better defense of late. Winners of two straight, the Tigers aren’t scaring anyone, but it’s a start.
Meanwhile, the pitching staff continues to get it done despite the injuries. The bullpen has its weak points, but the guys tasked with protecting leads or close games have been very solid. Young starters who weren’t expected to contribute continue to be intermittently effective. The results have been shaky in most cases, but the Tigers are getting their young starters good experience that should benefit them when they return to Toledo looking to perfect what they’ve learned in the show.
On Tuesday, the Tigers and Twins match up for a day-night doubleheader, and this opened a spot for left-hander Joey Wentz. He’ll take the ball in the second game. The left-hander’s first major league start did not go well at all, but while Wentz continues to need development in his overall command, he’s not as bad as it looked against Oakland back on May 11 either. Hopefully he’ll be a little more settled this time, and able to get back on track when the bouts of wildness do recur.
The timing on this one isn’t ideal, as Wentz was knocked out of his last start with a comebacker off the shin. His previous outing wasn’t particularly good either, but in both starts since his major league debut, he has at least committed to trying to keep the walks under control. There’s still a tendency to give away some pitches when he should be attacking, and to waste a few wildly.
Game 1 will feature Rony Garcia, another of the lesser known contributors entering the season who have shown some nice progress under the tutelage of pitching maestro Chris Fetter. Garcia was claimed in the 2019 Rule 5 draft from the Yankees, but the COVID shortened 2020 season didn’t give him much chance to show his potential. Injuries limited him in 2021, but so far this year he’s emerged looking like a new man. He still has some command issues that make him vulnerable to the long ball, but Garcia is also piling up strikeouts and weak contact like never before.
Obviously a split would be quite good here, but with the Twins not exactly sending a pair of aces to the mound either, let’s just win two instead, ok? Can’t let these Twins go running off with the division.
Detroit Tigers (18-29) vs. Minnesota Twins (29-20)
Time/Place: 1:10 p.m. EDT/7:10 p.m. EDT, Comerica Park, Detroit, MI
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.tv, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchups: Gm 1 – RHP Rony Garcia (0-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. LHP Devin Smeltzer (1-0, 1.04 ERA)
Gm 2 – LHP Joey Wentz (0-1, 20.25 ERA) vs. RHP Cole Sands (0-0, 6.75 ERA)
Game 48 Pitching Matchup
Devin Smeltzer is a 26-year-old lefty who has crafty southpaw written all over him. There’s a little deception in his delivery, but it’s a pretty prototypical three-quarters arm slot, with well-commanded soft stuff that tends to get a lot of weak contact.
Smeltzer does not strike many guys out. He has a solid changeup to go with an average slider and curveball, but his fastball rarely tops 90 mph. His approach is based on mixing all four in any count, and commanding the whole mix around the edges of the strike zone. The Tigers will have plenty of hitting opportunites here, but very rarely will they see a mistake pitch over the middle. Smeltzer is the kind of guy who lulls you to sleep until he’s somehow one-hit your team for four or five innings. Against an overly aggressive Tigers’ offense that has tended to chase too much, Smeltzer will probably be quite effective if the kitties aren’t able to stay patient.
As for Cole Sands, the 24-year-old right-hander is more of a two-pitch power pitcher with a quality fastball-slider combination. As a prospect, he was supposed to have a 70 grade curveball with very high spin rates. As a major leaguer, Statcast has classified it as a slow slider averaging 78-79 mph. Suffice it to say, it looks and plays like a classic hammer curveball.
Sands isn’t exactly a precision instrument, but he locates his fastball well most outings. If he can get ahead of Tigers’ hitters and let the slider do its thing, odds are he’ll be pretty successful in this one. He has a quality fourseamer with some life. The velocity is fairly pedestrian, sitting 92-94 mph and he will give up some homers if his command is poor. Still, the movement makes it more of a problem, and Sands gets his share of whiffs and weak contact in the air on the pitch.
Of the two, Sands is more volatile. The Tigers could beat him up, he might dominate, or anything in between. Smeltzer will likely require more patience and stringing together good plate appearances but the Tigers should put up some runs against him.
If we could pick, scoring runs in the night game is probably more crucial. Garcia is more than a match for Smeltzer in game one and should be able to keep the game close into the late innings at worst. Wentz is going to have a short leash and would do better pitching with some run support to allow him to relax and attack in the zone a little more.
Here’s how the lineup sets up for game one.