Game 81 preview: Tigers look to make it four in a row over the Guardians

Bless You Boys

The Detroit Tigers will look to break out the brooms on Wednesday afternoon as they go for the sweep against the Cleveland Guardians. The Guards will deploy Shane Bieber to stop the skid while the Tigers will have Michael Pineda making his second start since missing time with a broken finger.

After jumping to within one game of the Minnesota Twins for the division lead in the AL Central, the Guardians have been in a bit of a free fall. The Yankees rolled into Cleveland and took two out of three over the weekend, and then the Guardians came to Detroit and have been beaten handily over the last three games, including an 11-4 butt-whooping Tuesday night.

After three months of sadness, the Tigers are finally starting to look like a fun baseball team. They say that hitting is contagious, and that seems to be the case since the Tigers called up Riley Greene. They are 9-7 since his major league debut and Greene has been the team’s best player in that span. Every major league club gets to send a representative to the All-Star game, and if we’re going by best player, there’s a compelling argument to be made for Greene despite only playing in a handful of games.

The better All-Star argument belongs to Miguel Cabrera, who was on base four times in Tuesday’s win and went 3-3. His power is nowhere to be found, but he’s the greatest singles hitter on Planet Earth at this point and is hitting over .300. Batting average means next to nothing, but what Miggy is doing at age 39 is still impressive and the living legend deserves to share the stage with the game’s biggest stars. Miguel Cabrera will be a Hall of Famer before too long, and he’s still quite a good pure hitter despite the loss of batspeed and the leg and injuries that have sapped his power over the years. It would be only fitting for him to make an All-Star game appearance.

Detroit Tigers (33-47) vs. Cleveland Guardians (40-39)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m, Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: Covering the Corner
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Pineda (1-3, 3.62 ERA) vs. RHP Shane Bieber (3-4, 3.16 ERA)

Game 81 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pineda 27.1 13.8 3.7 5.31 0.0
Bieber 91.0 25.3 6.0 2.83 2.3

Michael Pineda has yet to pitch enough to find a groove, but with the state of the pitching staff — including yet another injury in Tuesday’s game, this time to Wily Peralta’s hamstring — Pineda came off the injured list at the perfect time. He doesn’t need to be anything more than a guy who can eat innings and give the offense a chance, and so far when he has pitched he’s done exactly that. With Peralta now out for the forseeable future due to a hamstring injury, and Tyler Alexander and Joe Jiménez most likely unavailable, the middle relief is a little limited.

Pineda is a decent bet to finesse his way through five or six innings without giving up a big number, so hopefully the bullpen won’t get worked too hard. The Tigers head out on the road to play 12 games in 11 days around the AL Central into the All-Star break after this one. The endurance test on this decimated pitching staff is going to remain a problem.

Shane Bieber isn’t the pitcher he was during the shortened 2020 season, but he’s still pretty good. For the last two seasons he was one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game. In 2022, he’s only in the 67th-percentile for strikeouts. Could this be attributed to a drop in velocity across the board? Possibly, but he still knows how to spot his pitches which has led to an excellent walk rate of 6.0% and a miniscule home run to flyball rate of only 8.2%. The Tigers are still last in the league in home runs, so they’re most likely going to have to beat Bieber station-to-station stringing together good at bats.

This game marks the halfway point through the season for the Tigers. Things have not gone according to plan, but after years of getting dominated by Cleveland, it’s felt good to be on the other end that spectrum in 2022. A sweep of Cleveland obviously doesn’t change the outlook for the season, but it’s nice to see some life in the Detroit dugout along with the ability to take it to a team that has its sights set on the playoffs.

Key Matchup: Hutchison Pineda vs. pitch count

This was the key matchup for Tuesday’s game, and I’m leaving it mostly untouched because it still applies. More than anything, the Tigers really need their starter to burn some frames and get deep into the game before the bullpen takes over. After a doubleheader yesterday two days ago and with the All-Star break a couple of weeks away, Detroit needs all it can get from every healthy arm — the number keeps dwindling — they have to reach the midsummer pause. Sure, he will give up a few runs, but if he can just keep things close hopefully the offense will find a seam and break through the Guardians. Let’s get this sweep and get out of here without anymore injuries.

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