Series Preview: Detroit Tigers wrap up home stand with pair vs Pittsburgh Pirates

Bless You Boys

The Detroit Tigers had a successful holiday weekend, taking three of four from the visiting Toronto Blue Jays — including three-straight wins to clinch the series — in a much-needed course correction after dropping five-straight games that sent them under the .500 mark.

Now just a game below the hallowed line of mediocrity, the Motor City Kitties welcome the Pittsburgh Pirates to town for a pair of midweek matchups before the home team hits the road again. The two teams also played a pair in Pittsburgh last month, splitting the games evenly early in the season.

The pitching matchups for this one might be the most interesting of any series so far, with the Bucs sending a dynamic duo of overachieving rookies to face off with Detroit’s two top pitchers.

Detroit Tigers (26-27) vs Pittsburgh Pirates (25-29)

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

Game 54 Pitching Matchups

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Skubal 60.0 31.2 4.3 2.15 2.1
Jones 59.0 29.4 4.3 3.59 1.0

Game 54: LHP Tarik Skubal (6-1, 2.25 ERA) vs. RHP Jared Jones (3-4, 3.05 ERA)

Skubal comes into Tuesday tied for third in the majors in fWAR as he continues to dominate during his fifth major league season. The 27-year-old had what might be his roughest outing last time on the mound, surrendering four runs on six hits (one home run) and two walks while striking out six Kansas City Royals batters for his first loss of 2024. Still, he is among the 87th percentile or better in 11 of Baseball Savant’s MLB Percentile Rankings.

Jones is off to a solid start to his big-league career with 10 games now under the rookie’s belt. The 22-year-old is finding success due in part to his low WHIP (0.97) and high strikeout rate (10.4 per nine innings) but he has struggled with surrendering home runs, averaging one per game and 1.5 per nine innings. In May, he has thrown at least six innings in all four outings, recording a 2.88 ERA and 3.21 FIP stretching over 25 innings.

Game 55 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Flaherty 61.0 33.3 3.7 2.98 1.4
Skenes 16.0 33.9 6.5 2.26 0.5

Game 55: RHP Jack Flaherty (1-4, 3.84 ERA) vs. RHP Paul Skenes (1-0, 2.25 ERA)

Flaherty continues to roll along in his bounce-back campaign for the Tigers and is currently second in the majors in strikeout rate (11.95 per nine) and fifth in walk rate (1.33 per nine). All four of the games he appeared in May were good enough for quality starts, putting up a 3.60 ERA and 3.21 FIP stretching over 25 innings pitched. His home run rate is still a bit high, surrendering one nearly every outing which works out to 1.3 per nine.

The Tigers face the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 MLB draft on Wednesday in Skenes, who has proven so far that he was worth the top pick last summer. The 21-year-old has wasted no time acclimating to the big leagues since his debut against the Chicago Cubs on May 11, allowing 12 hits (one home run) and four walks while striking out 21 over 16 frames. It is worth noting that in his second game, the rookie threw six hitless, scoreless innings with just a walk while striking out 11 for his first MLB win.

Series Outlook: At least get another split

This is undoubtedly a tough matchup for the Tigers, facing two pitchers who have excelled on the mound this season with a lackluster offense. The thing is, the Pirates’ bats are even worse, ranking No. 27 in OPS (.661) against Detroit’s No. 20 ranking (.684) though the former is a bit better at hitting home runs (No. 20, 50) than the latter (No. 24, 46). Of course, with the matchups projecting pitcher’s duels on paper, both will probably be offensive explosions the way that baseball tends to be.

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