Game 133 Preview: Michael Pineda returns to take on the Royals

Bless You Boys

After a rough go against the surging Seattle Mariners, the Tigers had the luck of the Irish on their side on Friday night against the Kansas City Royals. It was Irish Heritage Night at Comerica Park, so we’ll go with it despite little evidence of a particularly lucky streak running throughout Irish history. Either way, it’s just good to see the younger guys up and injecting a little positive energy late in the season.

Rookie infielder Ryan Kreidler didn’t notch his first hit as a major leaguer in the game, but he did walk twice and score two runs. He also baited Royals’ starter Daniel Lynch into a balk, which led to one of those two runs. As plate discipline is the thing standing between Kreidler and a long career in the majors, a pair of walks is a good way to start. Hopefully we’ll see him back in the lineup for this one, even if it’s only a pinch hitting appearance.

Overall, I’m pretty confident that fans would like to see Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, Kerry Carpenter, and Kreidler in the lineup as often as possible down the stretch. Hopefully A.J. Hinch can manage to make it so. Saturday’s lineup will feature all four of them for the Comerica Park faithful.

As for Mr. Torkelson, he didn’t appear to make any major changes during his return trip to Triple-A, instead experimenting subtly with his stance, setup, and timing cues, trying to settle in and recapture his timing after a rough first attempt at the major leagues in which he was shockingly late even on routine fastballs down the middle in fastball counts. Did a rough start just get in his head and leave him thinking too much and caught between guessing at pitches and trying to react? Possibly. For a talented young hitter who still managed to control the strike zone quite well in his first major league action, the idea that his struggles were largely psychological and amplified by disastrous seasons around him from most of the teams’ veteran position players, doesn’t seem far-fetched.

Torkelson went hitless in his return, but he did smoke one ball on a line to center field and was hit in another AB. So there wasn’t much in the negative column, though a nasty set of changeups away from Royals’ starter Daniel Lynch did carve Tork up pretty handily in the fifth inning.

Detroit Tigers (51-81) vs. Kansas City Royals (53-80)

Time/Place: 6:10 p.m. EDT/Comerica Park, Detroit MI

SB Nation Site: Royals Review

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Pineda (2-6, 5.27 ERA) vs. RHP Jonathan Heasley (2-7, 5.22 ERA)

Game 133 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pineda 42.2 5.82 12.8 3.3 2.32 -0.3
Heasley 70.2 5.98 17.1 10.9 1.91 -0.5

The Tigers opposing pitcher in this one, Jonathan Heasley, is still trying to find his way at the major league level. Heasley has one really good weapon in his 85-86 mph changeup. Beyond that he’s been extremely hittable in the majors, and continues to walk far too many hitters for big league work.

Heasley throws his fourseam fastball about half the time. The pitch average 94-95 mph and has really good riding action. When Heasley’s command is good, he’ll get a decent amount of whiffs, but not as many as one might expect with such good metrics. He just doesn’t seem to have much in the way of deception, and his command isn’t good enough to spot the heater around the edges without making mistakes over the middle.

Despite the quality changeup, Heasley tends to get lit up by left-handed hitters, while getting more weak contact in the air from right-handers. Both his slider and curveball are pretty pedestrian, giving up a lot of extra base hits, though not a ton of home runs. Overall it’s just a pretty average four-pitch mix delivered without much command in most outings. The Tigers’ offense is certainly one he might take advantage of, particularly if they chase the heater off the plate. However, if the Tigers’ hitters can avoid helping him out by chasing junk around the edges early in counts, they should have another pretty good night at the plate here.

As for Michael Pineda, we know what to expect at this point. If he’s commanding all three pitches, he should give the Tigers a solid outing and probably depart in the sixth at best. Unfortunately, we’ve seen precious few outings like that from him this season. Injuries have kept him from getting consistent work, and he’s been hit even harder than Heasley when he has been healthy. The Royals offense is a good one to try and get on track against, and Pineda’s career as a veteran fifth-starter could really use a solid month of September if he hopes to get another one-year major league deal this offseason. If the Royals are impatient, Pineda should do fine, but if not, they’re not going to have too much trouble sustaining traffic on the basepaths and making this a short outing for him.

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