Game 86 & 87 preview: Tigers in KC for a doubleheader

Bless You Boys

Well after months of pain, the Detroit Tigers have finally gone on a little bit of a run. A 7-4 start, with a six game winning streak in the mix, to the month of July is a long way from starting to alleviate the pain of a miserable first half, but at least we’re getting a better brand of baseball. As the first half winds down, the Tigers remain on the road for two more series. They’ll wrap the first half up in Cleveland, but first it’s time to lock up with the Kansas City Royals, this time in Kauffman Stadium.

A disappointing end to the series with the White Sox illustrated that the Tigers are still quite flawed, not least of which because the starting rotation is held together with duct tape and super glue. That wasn’t the issue on Sunday, as obviously the offense continues to vex as well. But all these doubleheaders are testing teams’ pitching depth, and once again a series kicks off with a day-night baseball extravaganza.

The Kansas City Royals have even more issues than the Tigers do, particularly with their starting rotation. While the Tigers’ pitching staff remains firmly in the top half of major league teams, the Royals are way down at the bottom. As this series goes four games, the Tigers should take advantage of that fact, but first on the menu is another twin bill that will pit the club against traveler’s insomnia before they even get on the field.

Detroit Tigers (36-49) at Kansas City Royals (32-52)

Time/Place: 2:10 p.m. EDT/Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO

SB Nation Site: Royals Review

Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.tv, Tigers Radio Network

Game 1 Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Pineda (2-3, 3.62 ERA) vs RHP Brad Keller (4-9, 4.37 ERA)

Game 2 Pitching Matchup: RHP Alex Faedo (1-4, 5.02 ERA) vs. LHP Daniel Lynch (3-7, 4.95 ERA)

Game 86 & 87 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pineda 32.1 5.62 13.2 4.7 1.95 0.0
Keller 90.2 4.44 15.4 8.1 1.09 0.7
Faedo 52.0 4.51 18.2 9.1 1.21 0.5
Lynch 63.2 4.45 22.4 10.3 1.27 0.5

Ok so this doubleheader isn’t exactly featuring your marquee matchups. Michael Pineda has returned from a fractured finger looking like his usual self, and can be expected to keep the Royals in check in game one. The whiffs haven’t been very present for the big right-hander this season, but he also hasn’t really been able to settle into a groove either after a last minute start and then the injury.

Now healthy and generally spotting his three-pitch mix well, hopefully he can get back to his usual strikeout-to-walk ratios in the second half. A little less contact would greatly help his cause. Either way, his ERA is cruising along in its typical range, and against a weak offense that will be even more diminished with Whit Merrifield (toe) joining Salvador Perez on the injury list, Pineda should have no trouble keeping the Royals run scoring to a minimum as long as his defense plays a clean game.

Pineda’s opponent, Brad Keller, handled the Tigers pretty well two starts ago in Comerica Park, blanking them over six innings of work with five strikeouts. He certainly wasn’t overpowering, but unless you crush a homer or two against him, which has not been the Tigers specialty this year at all, Keller will keep the ball on the ground and force teams to string some hits together. The stuff is really mediocre, and he won’t strike out many, but like Pineda, he frustrates teams by getting ahead with precision strike-throwing and then expanding the zone, forcing a lot of weak contact from all but the most patient of hitters.

Game two will see Alex Faedo looking to turn things around after a string of rough outings. So far, he’s done a decent job holding it together despite pretty mediocre peripheral numbers, but that was largely on the basis of seven solid starts to begin his major league career, during which he didn’t allow more than two runs in any outing. His last four starts have been decidedly worse.

Overall he’s racking up enough whiffs and most importantly, keeping the ball in the park to a better degree than his minor league career would’ve suggested. However, the good command he had early on has faded, and one has to wonder if fatigue is setting in. After coming out of his last start with a right hip issue, we’ll see if the rookie right-hander can put together a good outing. The Tigers would love to see a pair of decent starts from him this week and then hopefully get him an extended rest through the All-Star break. The workload has been a little intense for a rookie coming off Tommy John surgery, but so far Faedo has held up pretty well. The Royals are a good matchup for him to get right.

Lefty Daniel Lynch is arguably the strongest of the four starters involved in terms of stuff. The Tigers have been handling southpaws more effectively of late, but Lynch packs a solid fastball-slider combination and a quality changeup as well. He’ll also sit 94 mph quite comfortably with his fourseamer. Compared to the two Tigers’ starters, he’s a regular strikeout machine, but he also gives up too many walks and gets hit hard with some regularity. Faedo probably isn’t going to dominate the Royals, but the Tigers shouldn’t have much trouble doing damage with Lynch on the mound.

The Royals kick started the trading season on Monday, acquiring outfield prospect Drew Waters and two other prospects for their competitive balance pick in next weekend’s amateur draft. We won’t see Waters today, but he seems likely to see action in the series considering the Royals’ woeful outfield group. Let the battle of the bottom feeders begin.

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