Friday night’s contest at Globe Life Field was forgettable in one sense. Tyler Alexander had a rough outing and the Tigers’ offense fought back only to fall short. Most of this had little bearing on the future.
On the other hand, the performance of Riley Greene capped a week in which he appears to have locked into a pretty good groove at the major league level. The rookie center fielder posted a three hit game with a triple and a two-run shot in the top of the ninth inning that brought a comeback within reach. That they failed matters little. That it was Greene carrying the offense on his back means everything.
Since his debut, Greene has done some good things at the plate, but has also given away too many at-bats with impatience. He’s gotten a little roll here and there, but overall there were some wasted plate appearances in July and early August. Over the past week there have been signs that he’s starting to settle in and be more consistent as he’s hit in five straight games, four of them multi-hit performances, with two homers, a triple, and a double in the mix. Still only 21 years old, the center fielder just has the look of a talented young player starting to figure out how to put together consistent plate appearances against major league pitching, and he’s doing damage as well. It would be great if that carried through the final month of the season.
Another player who the Tigers would dearly love to see finish strong is Saturday’s starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez. With four years remaining on his deal, though he can opt-out after the 2023 season, getting some strong starts from the veteran left-hander would go a long way to clarifying next year’s starting rotation for whomever Chris Ilitch hires as the next Tigers general manager.
Right now the club is packed with question marks with few solid answers. After a strong return to action on August 21 against the Los Angeles Angels, a good finish by Rodriguez would allow them to focus more fully on their biggest need, finding a couple of quality bats, this offseason.
Time/Place: 7:05 p.m. EDT/Globe Life Field, Arlington, TX
SB Nation Site: Lone Star Ball
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.tv, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (2-3, 3.89 ERA) LHP Dallas Keuchel (2-7, 8.53 ERA)
Game 127 Pitching Matchup
Last time out, Eduardo Rodriguez had good command of his fastball, cutter, and changeup, and the Angels couldn’t do much of anything against him. He should equally equipped to handle a tougher Rangers lineup, but keeping Marcus Semien and Corey Seager in check at the top of the lineup will be the key. Once Rodriguez settles into his game, he’s generally really tough, so his success in this one may very well come down to how he opens the game against the top of the batting order.
As for the Rangers, even against a woeful Tigers’ offense, they’re going to need that run support as they send veteran lefty Dallas Keuchel to the mound after picking him up off the scrap heap. Keuchel is a familiar presence after his years with the Chicago White Sox, and not an imposing one.
The White Sox finally designated him back in late May after a horrendous start to the season. A quick tour with the Arizona Diamondbacks from late June into July saw him post one quality start while getting rocked in three of those four starts before the Diamondbacks cut bait. Keuchel’s major league career looks to have less of a future than someone like Drew Hutchison at this point.
The Rangers need the rotation help though, so the former Cy Young winner will get another shot. He probably won’t mind getting the Tigers as his first opponent with his new team, but there is obviously a ton of familiarity here and a new uni doesn’t change that. The Diamondbacks jersey didn’t help him disguise his low wattage stuff the last time he saw the Tigers. They knocked Keuchel out of a start on June 26 in the fifth inning, scoring four earned against him. That was the only time they’ve faced him this season.
Overall, the Tigers offense has been historically, spectacularly terrible against right-handed pitching this year. Their numbers against lefties are quite solid, however, and that’s held up into the second half. And as lefties go, Keuchel is a shell of the low-90’s command artist he was in the second half of the last decade. Eat him up, Tigers.