Given how the last few days have gone, the thought of actually watching baseball seems... foreign. The Tigers saw the final two games of their series against the New York Yankees get postponed due to weather, giving them a rare three-day break in the middle of April. While temperatures won’t be much better on Tuesday, the precipitation should hold off.
Yes, the Tigers might actually play baseball today.
If the Tigers do take the field, they will do so against the Baltimore Orioles, who already find themselves in a hole. The O’s have lost 11 of their first 16 games, and are already 8 1⁄2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The O’s are also five games out of the Wild Card race.
It’s far too early to write anyone off, though, and the Orioles’ schedule has arguably been the toughest in baseball to date. Baltimore has played just six of their 16 games at home, and 13 of their games have been against teams that made the playoffs last year. They were able to take three of four from the Yankees in New York a couple weeks ago, but were swept in road series at Boston and Houston.
If early trends are to be believed, we might not see much offense in this series. The O’s have a paltry 75 wRC+ through the first few weeks of the season, fifth-worst in MLB. They won’t continue to be this bad — no team was anywhere close to that low last season — and neither will the Tigers, who have a 73 wRC+. While neither pitching staff is great shakes either, the cold weather conditions should further suppress offense this week.
Baltimore Orioles (5-11) at Detroit Tigers (4-9)
Time/Place: 6:40 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Camden Chat
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Andrew Cashner (1-1, 2.50 ERA) vs. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-1, 2.13 ERA)
Game 14 Pitching Matchup
Andrew Cashner was once one of the most promising young arms in baseball. Even a few years ago, he was a mid-20s flamethrower trying to find his way with the San Diego Padres. He had a few solid seasons, and sported a 2.87 ERA in 298 1⁄3 innings between 2013 and 2014, but could never take the next step. Nagging injuries stopped him from ever putting in a 200-inning season — he has made 30 starts just once — and have sapped some of his velocity. His four-seam fastball once averaged over 96 miles per hour, and is down to 93.1 mph this year. He has started throwing a two-seamer more often, but his ground ball rate is actually down a bit from his years in San Diego.
Somehow, Cashner has found more success in his early 30s. He put up a career-best 4.3 rWAR last season, holding opponents to a 3.40 ERA in 166 2⁄3 innings with the Texas Rangers. Cashner struck out a paltry 12.2 percent of hitters and sported a 9.1 percent walk rate, numbers that weren’t too far off of what Mike Pelfrey produced in a Tigers uniform in 2016. But Cashner was able to limit home runs, giving him a passable 4.60 FIP.
While just about everything in Cashner’s profile screams regression, it hasn’t happened yet. He has allowed four home runs in his first three starts, but has only given up six runs (five earned) in total. His .266 BABIP from 2016 has gotten only lower, down to .190 in his first 18 innings of 2018. His high fly ball rate should play well in chilly conditions at Comerica Park, but he will regress eventually; his 34.8 percent hard contact rate isn’t conducive to getting a lot of outs.
Key matchup: The stoppable force vs. the movable object
Neither team has been great offensively so far, but the Tigers have remained afloat thanks to a solid, if unspectacular pitching staff. They currently own a 3.97 ERA as a team, the sixth-lowest in the American League. Meanwhile, the Orioles have the fourth-highest ERA in the AL, at 4.65 through 16 games. They were even worse last season, allowing a 4.97 ERA, second-worst in the American League. They gave up at least five runs in 20 consecutive games in June, an MLB record. If there’s a pitching staff the Tigers should be able to take advantage of, it’s this Orioles club.
Liriano and the Tigers snap their losing streak.