Among the many good storylines surrounding the 2016 Tigers, Michael Fulmer ranks at the top of the list. The entire future of the franchise has looked different since the rookie right-hander began his reign of terror. He returns Saturday night from an seven day hiatus with his eye on stretching the Tigers' winning streak to six.
It's a sad commentary on the state of the Los Angeles Angels' rotation that Ricky Nolasco was likely the best starter the Tigers will see in the series. Jhoulys Chacin was previously scheduled to start tonight's game, but the Angels are playing for 2017 now, and, as Chacin will be a free agent, they've opted to move Brett Oberholtzer to a starting role down the stretch. This will be Oberholtzer's first start of the year, after three injury plagued years in the Houston Astros' rotation.
Fulmer had a bit of a rough go in his last outing against the Boston Red Sox. He gave up a pair of home runs and six earned runs overall, the most he's allowed in any start this year. He also only struck out a single batter over 5 2/3 innings of work. Still, the Angels' offense is a far cry from the wrecking crew in Boston. The Tigers need to continue to take advantage of the Angels and keep the momentum going Saturday night.
Los Angeles Angels (54-74) at Detroit Tigers (69-59)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Blog: Halos Heaven
Media: FS1, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Fulmer (10-4, 2.58 ERA) vs. LHP Brett Oberholtzer (3-2, 5.27 ERA)
Brett Oberholtzer has had a rough couple of years. Repeated shoulder injuries limited his workload and success with the Astros, and he was dealt to Philadelphia in the Ken Giles deal this past offseason. He worked mainly long relief for the Phillies until he was DFA'd and then claimed by the Angels earlier this August.
Oberholtzer is a fairly prototypical soft-tossing lefty. He sits around 88-90 m.p.h. with both his fourseam fastball and sinker. His changeup was probably his best pitch earlier in his career, but it's faded in concert with his fastball. He does feature a decent curveball, and presumably he'll mix both secondary pitches in heavy doses against the Tigers' rather fearsome-looking offense. There's a bit of deception to his delivery, a little funk from a low three-quarters angle, but nothing too troubling in his delivery or repertoire.
Obertholtzer has a bit of added backspin on his fastballs, and his knuckle curve is a weird, near spinless variety that, at it's best, breaks late and induces some weak contact. Oberholtzer won't miss many bats entirely. This is his first start of the season, and so it's hard to imagine him pitching very deep into this one either. We all know the Tigers history with soft-tossing lefties (even if it's largely overblown), but frankly they should go off in a big way tonight.
Hitter to Fear: Mike Trout (because Mike Trout)
Hitter to Fail: Andrelton Simmons (just a hunch)
Michael Fulmer faced the Angels way back on June 1, and schooled them, spinning 7 2/3 scoreless innings with just two hits against. But as a rookie there's just no sample worth mentioning against any hitter. The Angels' offense is pretty weak, and every time the Tigers have rested Fulmer, he's come back with dominant performances. With the team eyeing another rest for him after this one, or at most one more start, look for the big right-hander to air it out tonight.
The Angels have a few solid bats, and one great one, but there just isn't enough depth in that lineup to trouble Fulmer much if he's on. Look for a well-rested Rookie of the Year candidate to come out showing better command, particularly of his slider, than he showed last time. Fulmer should handle them pretty well.
The key here is the Tigers' offense. As long as they're patient with Oberholtzer and picky in their selection of pitches to offer at, they should just go off in a big way tonight. Oberholtzer will try to keep them on the ground, but he'll eventually fail.
For Oberholtzer? PAIN. For the Tigers? Six straight wins and a good shot at a second straight series sweep.