Series Preview: Tigers hit the road to take on Guardians in three-game series

Bless You Boys

The Detroit Tigers followed up their sweep of the New York Mets at home to open the month of May taking two of three from the St. Louis Cardinals this past weekend, moving the Motor City Kitties up to three under .500 after 33 games.

Next up on the docket for the Olde English D is a trip to the shores of Lake Erie to face its bitter American League Central division rivals, the Cleveland Guardians, who play host this week to AJ Hinch’s team. Just a half-game separates the two franchises heading into the three-game series with the winner set to take sole possession of second place in the division — and a shot at the top perch if the Minnesota Twins falter.

With all of that in mind, take a look below at the pitching matchups for this week’s Detroit-Cleveland series hosted by the hated Guardians.

Detroit Tigers (15-18) at Cleveland Guardians (16-18)

Times (EDT): Monday: 6:10 p.m.; Tuesday: 6:10 p.m.; Wednesday: 1:10 p.m.
Place: Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio
SB Nation Site: Covering the Corner
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Game 34 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Wentz 28.1 18.0 8.2 5.61 -0.1
Bibee 11.0 30.2 0.0 2.44 0.5

Game 34: LHP Joey Wentz (0-3, 6.67 ERA) vs. RHP Tanner Bibee (1-0, 2.45 ERA)

Wentz missed the Guardians when the Tigers hosted them in the D, but has otherwise been less than impressive in his six starts in 2023 so far. The 25-year-old’s most recent start saw him go deeper into the game than any other time this season (six innings) but he allowed five earned runs on nine hits (three home runs) and a walk while striking out two against the New York Mets. His 1.9 HR/9 rate is simply not sustainable in the long term, so hopefully, he can get that particular metric under control.

Bibee, on the other hand, has been close to spectacular in limited starts this season, which has led to his impressive traditional and peripheral stats despite the small sample size. The 24-year-old rookie employs a four-pitch array headlined by a four-seam fastball (95.1 mph, 45.9%), followed by a slider (83.1 mph, 38.3%), curveball (76.2 mph, 8.7%) and changeup (84.4 mph, 7.1%), respectively, per Baseball Savant. His xwOBA (.223) and xERA (2.03) are in the top third percentile while his zero BB% is in the first, per 2023 MLB Percentile Rankings.

Game 35 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Lorenzen 21.0 17.6 7.7 4.83 0.1
Bieber 45.2 16.6 6.6 4.03 0.7

Game 35: RHP Michael Lorenzen (1-1, 5.14 ERA) vs. RHP Shane Bieber (2-1, 2.96 ERA)

Lorenzen’s last trip to the mound was a beauty, spinning a season-high seven innings of one-run ball on four hits and two walks while striking out one against the Mets for his first win of the season. The 31-year-old’s triumph follows the trend so far as he has alternated between stinkers and solid outings over his four starts. Unfortunately, that tendency to vacillate puts the Tigers on the wrong side of the swing this week — hopefully, he can shift to consistent winners rather than riding the pendulum.

Cleveland’s former Cy Young winner — and seventh-place finisher last season — will take the bump on Tuesday in yet another stellar season for the 27-year-old so far. However, behind the veneer of traditional metrics, one will notice that his 4.06 FIP which is over a full run more than his ERA. So what is going on with the prime-of-his-life hurler? For starters, his strikeouts-to-walk rate (2.5) is the lowest of his career while his walk rate alone has also re-inflated. Bieber is still giving the Guardians good innings so he remains a threat to the Tigers’ lineup.

Game 36 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Rodriguez 44.2 23.9 4.9 3.31 1.1
Battenfield 24.1 21.2 11.1 5.12 0.1

Game 36: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (3-2, 1.81 ERA) vs. RHP Peyton Battenfield (0-3, 4.07 ERA)

We have written a few things about Rodriguez recently here at Bless You Boys, but the long and short of it is that the veteran hurler has been a godsend for Detroit’s pitching staff, picking up where he was expected to produce last season. In this case, however, it is not too little, too late — the 30-year-old has anchored the Tigers’ rotation and has kicked off conversations regarding what the franchise should do with its rejuvenated lefty. Like Lorenzen, his last time out was his best throwing eight shutout innings allowing two hits and a walk while striking out nine Mets en route to the win.

Battenfield is a young rookie still wet behind the ears who has been thrust into service by Cleveland. The 25-year-old has not been terrible, just suffering from a couple of bad starts that tanked his numbers. However, his most recent outing against the Minnesota Twins produced his best performance of the spring so far, throwing seven frames of two-run ball on two hits (one home run) and zero walks while striking out seven in the losing effort. If he replicates those results on Wednesday afternoon, it could be a long one for Detroit.

Series Outlook: Battle for second in AL Central

This week’s series represents the official fight for second place in the weak American League Central division — and if all the stars align (i.e. the Twinkies go on a skid), the winner could be in first place by the end of the week. But let us not get ahead of ourselves as two of these games are theoretically winnable, with the third also being up in the air thanks to the unpredictability of baseball. Taking two of three would put the Tigers in the passenger’s seat in their division as we quickly approach the 40-game mark.

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