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Series Preview #31: Detroit Tigers @ Houston Astros

The Astros (62-34, 1st in AL West) welcome the Tigers (40-55, 3rd in AL Central) for the final series in the first half of 2018

Detroit Tigers v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Recency Bias


The Tigers stumble into town after 4 straight losses that serve as the exclamation point on a 4-22 stretch. Since then they have gone from 2nd place and only 3 games back in what was still an open AL Central race to 3rd place and falling at 12 games back. The offense hasn’t had too many bright spots this year but Nicholas Castellanos is managing to put together a good season for Detroit, the only Tiger player currently on the roster with an OPS over .800. He joins Niko Goodrum and James McCann as Detroit’s hottest hitters this last week. During that time McCann has been especially effective, slashing .278/.350/.611 with 2 home runs and a walk. Goodrum has also been hitting the ball well this week with a slash line of .367/.387/.567 to go along with what has been a decent if not mediocre season. Beyond that the returns have been somewhat grim for Detroit, with Victor Reyes doing the most damage in the last two series but still only checking in at a .702 OPS. John Hicks and Jeimer Candelario have both shown life at the plate this season, but after that things really fall off a cliff for Detroit as far as offense goes.

Meanwhile, Detroit’s bullpen isn’t much better and is in the bottom 5 to 8 for most stats as a group. It’s not all bad news though as Joe Jiménez has been their best reliever with a 2.85 ERA, 10.10 K/9, and 2.63 BB/9 in 41 IP. In just his second year in the majors, Jiménez will also be the Tigers’ lone representative in the All Star game. He had been closing while Shane Green was injured, but will most likely move back to the setup role once he returns. Speaking of, Green has not exactly impressed in the closer role this season, currently holding a 4.03 ERA in 38 innings, though his strikeout and walk numbers aren’t horrendous. After that Blaine Hardy has seen the most work, mostly as a long man out of the pen but has made a few spot starts this season as well. Hardy started the season in AAA, but has done pretty well for himself since returning to the club in early May. Alex Wilson and Louis Coleman round out the better relievers for Detroit going by numbers, but Wilson is currently listed as day to day with a calf injury. Of the names left in the pen, Buck Farmer deserves a mention because his name is awesome and because he’s currently riding a 13 scoreless inning streak dating back to early June.

The Tigers aren’t technically out of the race for the Central, but they’re out of the race of the Central and will probably be playing more for pride than postseason aspirations


Houston welcomes Detroit to town after a lackluster series loss to the A’s, dropping 3 of 4 games while playing some sloppy baseball. The offense has been a little up and down after showing up through most of the White Sox sweep. It’s been an especially good week for Bregman, who made his first All Star roster, announced that he will be the lone AL participant in the home run derby, and slashed .357/.438/.750 with 3 homers and 7 RBI. Gurriel has also stayed in form as a professional hitter, now slashing an incredible .436/.461/.590 with runners in scoring position, going up to .448/.484/.586 with two outs. Altuve has continued his steady assault on opposing pitching, leading the league in hits with 126. Tony Kemp has seen limited playing time this week, but still managed 2 hits, 3 walks, 1 homer, 3 RBI, and 4 stolen bases while striking out just once in 8 ABs, so a pretty steady week. Gattis is still driving in runs with power, but his hitting has been more timely than prolific as his batting average continues to dip. Springer’s numbers are still somewhat depressed, but there have at least been some signs of life with George reaching base at a .344 clip. Stassi also had a decent week, but after that the lineup was mostly quiet.

As for the bullpen, things have been somewhat less than stellar for them this last week. After a string of mostly excellent results, the pen has given up an alarming number of runs this last week. Smith and McHugh have both made strong cases as the Astros’ pitcher of the week. McHugh did give up a run in 5.2 innings of work, but the homer that run came off of was the only hit he surrendered this week to go with 7 K’s. Meanwhile, Smith has had 4.1 shutout innings of work since his return from the DL. Sipp looked superb in his one outing this week, striking out 3 of the 4 batters he faced, retiring all. Cionel Pérez would make his MLB debut and had some good ABs and some more forgettable ones, but did not look scared to be facing professional hitters. As for the bad news, Peacock would have one of his roughest weeks, giving up 5 runs on 3 homers, and Devo has been unusually unreliable, giving up 3 runs in 1.1 innings. Harris has been shaky, but only has a single run on his ledger. Rondón also only has 1 run in 2 appearances with a save, but allowed several inherited runners from Giles to score. Speaking of Kenny, Giles was tagged for 4 runs in two appearances and was optioned to AAA after another non-save meltdown.

The Astros will look to right the ship against a weak Tigers team and hopefully salvage some momentum heading into the break.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Mike Fiers, RHP (6-5, 3.65 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel, LHP (6-8, 3.95 ERA)

Old Friend Mike Fiers will make his first start against the Astros since being non tendered in the offseason after being left off the postseason roster. Fiers has been enjoying a pretty good season since starting off a little slow. He’s fired off three good g ames in a row, only surrendering a single run in each while going 7, 8, and 6 innings respectively. The long ball continues to be an issue for Fiers, though not to the extreme we saw in early 2017, and he has a low 6.75 K/9, so he might be due for a big loss.

Meanwhile, Dallas will toe the mound for Houston after a second good start in a row. He would go 7 innings against the White Sox and only give up one run, but did allow 6 hits, 3 walks, and only struck out 2. He was much more dominant in his previous 7 inning outing against the Rangers where he struck out 7 batters in 7 innings of 2-run ball. Keuchel’s season has been up and down, but his BABIP and FIP show that he’s more likely to trend towards positive regression.

I think Dallas has an excellent opportunity to continue gaining confidence against a lesser lineup, but don’t underestimate a Fier’s chance for a revenge game.

Game 2: Michael Fulmer, RHP (3-8, 4.11 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole, RHP (9-2, 2.57 ERA)

After a decent 2017 follow up to his 2016 AL Rookie of the Year season, Fulmer is in the midst of his worst season as a major league player. His HR/9 and ERA have both ticked up and his BB/9 has spiked almost a full point since last year. His two most recent games haven’t been terrible, going 7 innings with 3 runs, 2 earned, against the Rangers, and 6 innings of 3-run ball before that. As poor as Fulmer has performed compared to previous success, his numbers suggest that this is about what you can expect from him going forward in 2018.

Cole is scheduled to come off the bereavement list to make this start after his first shutout appearance since early May. He would go 6 innings against the A’s keeping them off the board with 11 K’s over those frames. He did scatter 6 base runners during those innings. Cole has had an issue with the free passes this season, now sitting at a 3.01 BB/9 mark on the year. His numbers suggest that he may be susceptible to some regression still, but he shouldn’t have far to fall if so.

On the season Cole has been better than Fulmer and there doesn’t seem to be too much reason to see that changing here.

Game 3: Francisco Liriano, LHP (3-5, 4.74 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander, RHP (9-4, 2.05 ERA)

Liriano returns to Houston after playing the role of trade deadline acquisition and bullpen arm last year. He had been putting together a decent 2018 but has had some struggles recently, walking a lot of batters and getting stung by the home run ball. His most recent match was an utter disaster, where Francisco would go 2.1 IP with 8 H, 7 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, and 3 K’s. As bad as he’s been, Liriano’s FIP suggests that he could still be slightly worse and might be an easy challenge.

Verlander will bring the first half of the season to a close after being the Opening Day starter. His most recent start was a 6 shutout inning gem against Oakland where he would only allow 3 hits and strikeout 6. Justin had a slight blip after two poor outings against Toronto and the Rays, but has since found his form and regained his status as AL ERA leader. Verlander is like Cole in that some regression can be expected, but numbers suggest that it shouldn’t be a disaster.

Verlander should definitely have the advantage over his former teammate here.

Fun Fact

Bregman now has 30 doubles, making him just the fourth Astro player to ever have that many before the All Star break.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, July 13th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Tigers FS-D / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 2: Saturday, July 14th @ 3:10 pm CDT
Listen: Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Tigers FS-D / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB Network (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV

Game 3: Sunday, July 15th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Tigers FS-D / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (33 votes)
  • 35%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (21 votes)
  • 6%
    Tigers Win 2-1
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    Tigers Sweep 3-0
    (1 vote)
59 votes total Vote Now