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2019 Series Preview #41: Detroit Tigers @ Houston Astros

The Astros (79-46, 1st in AL West) return to Houston for some home cooking with four against the Tigers (37-84, 5th in AL Central)

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias


The Tigers have been in a tailspin for the second half of the season, going 9-27 since the All Star Break. A big problem has been a lack of momentum as they have only managed to win back-to-back games once during that time. Detroit has also seen three separate losing streaks of five games or more in the second half. They’ve been real bad is what I’m trying to say here. The Tigers have really had difficulty on both sides of the ball with a good number of the losses coming in blowout games where they scored 3 or less runs. The last week has really reflected that whole dynamic with the Tigers going 2-4 in the past two series, dropping 2 of 3 to both the Mariners and the Rays.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers’ offense has been delivering about what you’d expect from a team mired in the middle of a brutal rebuilding year. The best player on the team was traded away at the deadline and those left barely register as slightly above average.

Of course there are players who will still go on hot streaks and right now that includes OF Victor Reyes, who is slashing .333/.364/.571 in the last week. He also has the most extra base hits for the Tigers during that time with 3 doubles and a triple. Third baseman Harold Castro is right there with him in shorter duty, though his power hasn’t been there nearly as much as Reyes’.

Unfortunately for the Tigers things take a bit of a nosedive after that. The team isn’t fielding anyone with an above average OPS for the entire year. That includes Miguel Cabrera, who is having another down year as he continues to be one of the poster children for inflated veteran contracts. The best thing about Cabrera is his decent OBP, but that’s not what you’re looking for from a player of his caliber.

After that it’s a parade of JAG’s for Detroit. It’s hard to tell who will really factor into the future for the Tigers as most of the other guys are just sort of floating along right now. Brandon Dixon, Jacoby Jones, Niko Goodrum, and Christin Stewart all join Cabrera with an OPS ranging from .714 to .759. More or less what you would expect from an offense that ranks at or near the bottom of the MLB pile in most categories.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Jimenez has taken over closing duties for the Tigers since Shane Greene was shipped off to the Braves, but hasn’t really stepped up in the role. He’s sitting at a 4.82 ERA in 46.2 innings and has blown 5 of the 8 opportunities he’s seen.

He will usually be proceeded by the current best-name-in-baseball, Buck Farmer, who is having a decent season based off his ERA of 3.78 in 50 innings. He’s also sporting a .258 BAA and 1.30 WHIP in that time.

Blaine Hardy and Nick Ramirez have seen the most work out of the pen for the Tigers after that, and are the most likely to get hold situations, but their numbers don’t exactly scream confidence for Detroit. Ramirez seems to be the long man with with 60.2 IP across 34 games, but has a 4.90 ERA in that span. Hardy’s numbers are hardly better but he will also go a couple of innings if called upon.

Honestly though, the bullpen for Detroit is pretty ugly. Other than Farmer, no one has an ERA below 4.40. Like the offense, the pitching staff as a whole ranks near the bottom of the league in almost every category for the Tigers. Their best stat is probably limiting walks as they sit firmly in the middle of the pack for that one.


The Astros return to Houston after a 10-game road trip that started out pretty good before the wheels came flying off in Chicago. They went 4-6 on the trip including a 5-game skid before salvaging the final game in Oakland. They’ll have an excellent opportunity to bounce back against a rebuilding Tigers team that currently sits a half game south of the Orioles for worst record in baseball. Houston will need to tighten up on defense, which was a little sloppy on the road, as well as relief pitching, which has taken an uncharacteristic downturn in recent games. The team is also in the middle of a brutal stretch on the schedule where they not only had their longest road trip of the year but also had to play a doubleheader due to a rain delay. They won’t see another day off until a week from today.

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Brantley has been on some kind of tear recently and is on a 12-game hitting streak and has a blistering .519/.552/.926 this week. He’s also managed 5 doubles and 2 homers in his last 14 hits, and laid down a pretty sweet bunt for a hit in the finale against Oakland.

Alex Bregman has also been breathing some rarefied air this week, slapping 3 doubles and 2 long balls of his own. He went 8-for-20 with four walks as well and only struck out once in the past two series. Gurriel also continues to make up for a slow start in 2019 and has managed to bring his batting average all the way up to .304. He also now leads the team in RBI’s.

Unfortunately, after those three things began to cool somewhat for the Astros on the road. Alvarez had a good couple of games in the series against the A’s including a two-homer game, but that came after the first real mini-slump of his career.

Correa in particular has had trouble finding grass recently after going on a hot streak to start the second half. He did get on base at a decent rate thanks to 7 walks this week, but only managed a .087 BA at the same time.

MLB: Game One-Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

While the bullpen had been a little off its game recently with some notable implosions coming recently, it has seemed to recover somewhat in Oakland. The arms might be a little taxed however, having to pull extra duty in recent weeks thanks to Cole’s minor injury.

McHugh has stepped up the most this week, tossing 5.1 innings in the the last 7 games and only surrendering one run. Joe Smith was the next up with 3.1 scoreless innings across 4 games.

But really everyone in the bullpen put in significant time this week. Harris pitched three innings while Pressly went four. Pressly had a nice showing in Oakland after getting rocked in Chicago after a home run. Of the players currently on the team Osuna saw the least amount of action, only tossing two scoreless innings.

Devo had the worst showing of any reliever this week. He saw 4 innings of work and was shelled for 7 runs, 5 earned, in that time. Devo had had a pretty decent stretch starting in mid-July, but has seemingly taken a step back in the last couple of weeks.

MLB: Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Edwin Jackson, RHP (3-5, 8.62 ERA) vs Wade Miley, LHP (11-4, 3.11 ERA)

Baseball Methuselah Edwin Jackson will get the ball for Detroit to start the series and comes in after a couple of decent starts since he joined the Tigers on August 9th. He had started the year with Toronto where he posted an absolutely putrid 11.12 ERA in just 28.1 innings before being DFA’d. In his two MLB starts starts since then he went 6.1 and then 5 innings, giving up just 3 runs across that time. Those games were against the bottom-feeding Royals and Mariners though, so the Astros will provide his first big test with his new team.

Houston counters with Wade Miley, who will look to bounce back from a shaky outing in Chicago which saw him surrender 7 runs, though only 3 were earned. Miley has yet to give up more than four earned runs in any of his starts this season. He’ll need to recapture some of his cutter command in this one though, as that pitch was not quite working for him against the White Sox. Miley’s last start against Detroit was not all that great as he gave up 4 earned runs, but at least went 6 innings.

Game 2: Spencer Turnbull, RHP (3-11, 3.75 ERA) vs Aaron Sanchez, RHP (5-14, 5.79 ERA)

Turnbull has been the Tigers’ second-best pitcher this season and probably presents the biggest challenge, on paper, that the Astros will face this series. His biggest claim to fame has been how stingy he’s been when it comes to home runs, holding opponents to a 0.80 HR/9 rate in 2019. He has yet to surrender more than one long ball in any of his starts this year. In spite of pitching fairly well, Turnbull hasn’t logged a win since late May. This will be his first career start against the Astros.

Sanchez will make this start for Houston after a bit of a clunker in Oakland that saw him surrender 6 runs across 5.1 innings, including 2 home runs. This kind of performance was more in line with what we had seen with Sanchez while he was with Toronto, but hopefully reuniting with Strom will get him back in a form similar to his first two Astros starts. Sanchez opened the season with a game against Detroit and twirled 6 innings of shutout baseball before hitting the showers in that one.

Game 3: Daniel Norris, LHP (3-10, 4.82 ERA) vs Justin Verlander, RHP (15-4, 2.81 ERA)

Norris will take the mound for Detroit to start Game 3, but he probably won’t factor much past the first few innings. The Tigers have placed him on an innings limit after he hit the century mark this season, which might be due to the fact that he barely got to 50 innings last season. He has gone 3 in his last two starts, surrendering 4 runs to the Royals before blanking the Rays in his next appearance. Norris has seen the Astros just twice in his career and was slapped around for 5 runs in 4.2 innings the last time he faced them, which was in 2018.

Verlander makes this start against his former team while on a franchise-record streak of 6 consecutive games with double-digit strikeouts. He’s been masterful in that stretch with a 2.19 ERA and 16.54 K/9 rate. The crazy thing is that he’s sporting a .348 BABIP during those games as well, which shows he’s actually had some bad luck. This will be his second time facing Detroit this season after going 7 innings of 1-run ball back in mid-May.

Game 4: Jordan Zimmermann, RHP (1-8, 6.66 ERA) vs TBD

Zimmermann will make his second start since returning from the IL earlier this month. He was solid in his last outing against the Rays, spinning five innings with just 1 hit surrendered and no runs. But like most of his time with the Tigers, Zimmermann has been pretty terrible this season as you can tell by mark-of-the-beast ERA. He’s given up at least 5 runs in 6 of his 16 starts this season and has already spent two turns on the IL. This will be his first time facing the Astros in 2019.

The Astros have yet to announce who will start this game but all signs point to Gerrit Cole making his return to the rotation after tweaking his hamstring. Cole is having a career year with the Astros, especially when it comes to K/9, so Houston is quite eager to see him return. However, I’m sure they’re balancing that with his value for October, so if things aren’t 100% I wouldn’t be surprised to see a spot start here. If Cole gets the ball it will be his first time facing the Tigers in 2019.

Fun Fact

Michael Brantley now has 51 multi-hit games in 116 games for 2019. He has just 20 where he has gone hitless.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, August 19th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Tigers - FS-D / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 2: Tuesday, August 20th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Tigers - FS-D / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 3: Wednesday, August 21st @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Tigers - FS-D / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 4: Thursday, August 22nd @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Tigers - FS-D / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (83 votes)
  • 43%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (70 votes)
  • 3%
    Series Split 2-2
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Tigers Win 3-1
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Tigers Sweep 4-0
    (0 votes)
160 votes total Vote Now