Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals fly into town to face Detroit Tigers this week

Bless You Boys

The Detroit Tigers continue their successful opening act to the 2024 campaign having now won three-straight three-game series to clinch a winning record for the first month-plus of the season. The streak began with a series win at the Minnesota Twins, followed by another road triumph against the Tampa Bay Rays, and then the Kansas City Royals at home last weekend.

Now, AJ Hinch and Co. turn their attention to a long-time National League foe, the St. Louis Cardinals, who come to town this week for a three-game set starting on Monday. The Cards currently reside in the cellar of the National League Central division — but just a half-game behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, who the Tigers split a two-game series with earlier this month.

The matchup seems to favor the home team but the games are played for a reason. Take a look below at how the starting pitching lines up.

Detroit Tigers (16-12) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (13-15)

Times (ET): Monday: 6:40 p.m.; Tuesday: 6:40 p.m.; Wednesday: 1:10 p.m.
Place: Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan
SB Nation Site: Viva El Birdos
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Game 29 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Maeda 22.2 17.0 7.0 6.75 -0.3
Matz 24.1 14.7 8.3 4.17 0.2

Game 29: RHP Kenta Maeda (0-1, 5.96 ERA) vs. LHP Steven Matz (1-2, 5.55 ERA)

Maeda finally gave Detroit fans what they were hoping to see out of the veteran hurler his last time out against the Rays after a sluggish start to his Tigers tenure. The 36-year-old threw five scoreless innings allowing just three hits and no walks while striking out five to help the team earn the win. That outing dropped his ERA by 1.68 points and his FIP by 1.58.

Matz is now in his 10th major league season and third with the Red Birds as he looks to build on a solid — if not up-and-down — career. The 32-year-old has failed to accomplish that goal so far, however, getting hammered in his last three appearances giving him an 8.36 ERA (but a 4.90 FIP) over that stretch, allowing 21 hits (two home runs) and six walks while striking out 10 in 14 frames. The southpaw appears to be prime for feasting on Monday.

Game 30 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Flaherty 29.1 29.0 3.2 3.66 0.5
Gibson 31.0 16.0 9.6 5.24 0.0

Game 30: RHP Jack Flaherty (0-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (2-2, 4.35 ERA)

Flaherty has been a fine addition to the Tigers’ rotation, putting up a tidy 1.16 WHIP along with his 3.66 FIP despite the mildly bloated ERA. The 28-year-old’s number is high because he has simply struggled at run prevention as a whole, in large part because he has surrendered one home run in all five of his starts. If he can solve the longball issue, it could be a good summer for the veteran.

Gibson is another tenured veteran who takes the mound this week, himself in his 12th year of big league play. Last season, the 36-year-old led the American League in games started but also was at the top of the list in hits allowed over 192 innings; his WHIP has improved from 1.32 to 1.19 so far but his FIP has ballooned from 4.13 to 5.25. The righty’s last two games were six-inning quality starts, combined for a 1.50 ERA on eight hits and six walks while striking out nine.

Game 31 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Olson 28.1 21.1 8.9 2.83 0.8
Mikolas 32.0 18.0 5.0 4.81 0.1

Game 31: RHP Reese Olson (0-4, 3.18 ERA) vs. RHP Miles Mikolas (2-3, 5.91 ERA)

Olson’s last start, which came against KC, was his best so far this season, allowing one run on three hits and three walks while striking out eight in a game the Tigers let get out of hand in the final innings. The 24-year-old now has a pair of quality starts to his name and appears to have moved past his one rotten outing against Pittsburgh earlier in the month. This is great news for Detroit’s starting rotation.

Mikolas has simply struggled to start his ninth major league campaign as he follows up 2023 with a very underwhelming season. Last year, the 35-year-old led all of MLB in games started and hits allowed while leading the NL in earned runs and batters faced over 201 13 innings pitched. He is an innings eater, no doubt, but his FIP, WHIP and home run rate continue to regress as the sun begins to set on his career.

Series Outlook: Chalk up another series win

The Tigers once again have a good chance of earning the series win this week, especially if Maeda continues his positive regression to the mean. Detroit has the edge on the mound and in the batter’s box, believe it or not, as it currently sits fourth in the majors in team ERA (3.14) against St. Louis’ No. 12 ranking (3.86). At the plate, the Olde English D ranks at No. 26 in OPS (.650) while the Cards are one spot behind (.636); it is worth noting that the visitors have the fewest home runs in all of baseball (18) while the home team is No. 25 (23).

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