It appears that the Tigers are finally on the other side of their huge mid-August slump. However, the slump has taken a massive toll on Detroit’s postseason chances, knocking them down from 59.7 percent (per Fangraphs) on August 6 to 31.7 percent this morning. Every game in August represents a larger swing in playoff probability than those in June, so a sweep today against the Minnesota Twins would be huge for bolstering that record.
To do so, Daniel Norris is going to have to figure out how to navigate the middle innings to lock down a Twins’ lineup that Anibal Sanchez and Matt Boyd managed to keep in check. If the offense wanted to continue its hot series against rookie Jose Berrios, I wouldn’t complain about that either.
Detroit Tigers (67-59) at Minnesota Twins (49-76)
Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Daniel Norris (1-2, 3.81 ERA) vs. RHP Jose Berrios (2-3, 9.28 ERA)
Berrios has long been known as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, and indeed became a consensus top five pitcher this offseason. He’s been desperately needed by a team whose combined ERA sits at 4.99. Unfortunately for the Twins, however, Berrios has not been the savior in 2016.
The young righty has shown electric potential at times this year. His first three starts, Berrios struck out over a batter per inning in each of them. Strikeouts are only one component of defense-independent pitching theory, and Berrios has been flat-out awful at controlling the other two- 16 walks and 7 home runs allowed in 32 innings.
The Tigers were graced with Berrios’ presence once this year, and they sent him back to the minors for two and a half months afterwards. His line in that game was a horrific seven runs allowed on three hits and four walks in just two thirds of an inning. Berries was not called back up again until August 1, and he’s made four starts with an 8.47 ERA and just 17 innings pitched since.
Hitter to fear: Brian Dozier (4-for-8 with a pair of homers on the series)
Hitter to fail: Joe Mauer (.235/.304/.343 against lefties this year)
Dozier is as hot as anyone on the Twins, holding a 200 wRC+ over the last month. He’s never faced Norris, so we’ll see how wins the battle today. Meanwhile, Mauer is also hot over the last month (158 wRC+), but he still hits for very little power against lefties and is 0-2 with a strikeout against Norris. Therefore, he’ll probably go 4-5 with three homers and sign a 10-year deal with Head and Shoulders after the game.
The Tigers are still on the fringes of contention with a 5.5 game deficit in the Central, but with the Indians in Texas facing Cole Hamels, Detroit has a huge opportunity to make up a big game on the Tribe. If they can continue to hit the ball well- looking at you, Upton- and can stay healthy- looking at you, Maybin- then this could become a very interesting AL Central again rapidly.
Berrios walks literally every hitter in the starting lineup.