We’re only two starts into 2018, and we have already seen both sides of the Mike Fiers Experience. The 32-year-old veteran was lights out in his first start, keeping the Chicago White Sox off balance for six scoreless innings. He worked the edges of the strike zone with his high-80s four-seam fastball, and was able to elevate it for a few strikeouts. Of the 15 whiffs he generated on 90 pitches, seven came from his four-seam fastball.
Fiers’ second start didn’t go quite as well. He opted for a few more two-seam fastballs against the high-powered Yankees lineup, a tough matchup for any pitcher. While 29 of the 43 fastballs he threw hit the strike zone, Yankees hitters didn’t swing and miss on a single one. Worse yet, Fiers caught a lot of the plate with those fastballs, resulting in five of the eight hits he allowed to the Yanks. Two more, including Aaron Hicks’ inside-the-park home run, came off of Fiers’ changeup, a pitch that plays off of his fastball.
While Fiers’ changeup is his best pitch, everything works off of his fastball. We prefer his four-seamer to the two-seamer, but it won’t matter what he throws to the Royals on Saturday if he locates like he did in his last start. The Tigers will need him at his best against lefthander Danny Duffy, especially if Detroit’s offense pulls the same disappearing act it did against both Royals starters on Friday.
Kansas City Royals (4-14) at Detroit Tigers (8-10)
Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Danny Duffy (0-2, 3.86 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Fiers (1-1, 3.86 ERA)
Game 19 Pitching Matchup
As fun as it was to see Daniel Norris finally get a start on Friday, I’m still a little miffed we were deprived the “Battle of the Dans” slated for a rainy Sunday two weeks ago. Duffy vs. Norris was a matchup of present against (hopeful) future, even if Duffy was coming off a rough Opening Day outing against the White Sox.
As conditions worsened on a rainy, cold day in Kansas City, Duffy started to lose his command some. Jose Abreu and Matt Davidson took advantage of center-cut fastballs for a home run apiece, while several others made loud contact in his final inning of work. The weather was likely to blame for most of his troubles — Duffy had trouble keeping his footing on the wet mound — but his stamina also could have been to blame. Duffy left his final spring training start after just 32 pitches with an apparent injury, and didn’t throw more than 42 in any Cactus League start.
Duffy has shaped up since then, getting better in every start along the way. He blanked the Toronto Blue Jays for six innings in his last outing, striking out eight while allowing just two hits. His command has been off so far in 2018 — he has walked three hitters in each of his past three starts — but his velocity is climbing nicely after being a bit down during his first start of the year.
Key matchup: The Royals vs. winning without Jake Junis
Here’s a stat for you. The Royals have four wins in 18 games this year. Three of those four wins have come in games started by Jake Junis, including two against the Tigers. Kansas City is an incredible 1-13 in all other games!
This won’t continue for long. The Royals rotation has actually been pretty good thus far, and Duffy is no slouch. He has rebounded from a rough last inning on Opening Day to post a 2.12 ERA in his last three starts, including 18 strikeouts in his last 17 innings. The Royals offense has struggled at times, but has perked up a bit lately, scoring at least three runs in six of their last seven games. While three runs isn’t a high bar to clear, Duffy shouldn’t need too much run support if he continues his recent run of form. So long as the Royals bullpen — a complete disaster so far — shapes up a bit, Kansas City will start to tack on a few more wins.
Duffy and the Royals cruise to an easy win.
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