It’s not often that I’d be perfectly okay with seeing the Tigers offense get rolled by an opposing starting pitcher. When someone dominant like Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, or Clayton Kershaw comes to town, I want to see the Tigers test their mettle and knock that opposing ace around a bit. Even when Justin Verlander inevitably pitches at Comerica Park later this year — shhh, it’s happening — I want to see the Tigers put together a solid offensive effort.
But today? Yeah, I’m fine if they can’t hang. Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani will take the mound for the Angels on Wednesday, giving many Tigers fans their first glimpse of what all the hype is about.
So far, it has been warranted. Ohtani struggled in spring training, but has been the ace-level pitcher everyone hoped for in the regular season. Through seven starts, Ohtani has logged 40 1⁄3 innings, nearly six inings per start. He has limited some very good opponents (more on that below) to a 3.35 ERA, and has a 32.3 percent strikeout rate that ranks eighth among MLB starters (minimum 30 innings pitched).
Unfortunately, we won’t get to see the other half of what makes Ohtani so special: his bat. A swing that looked long and late during the spring has turned into a true power stroke, as Ohtani is hitting .291/.376/.553 with six home runs and seven doubles in just 117 plate appearances. The Angels have treated him with kid gloves so far, and he will unfortunately not bat in this game.
Even with Ohtani just on the mound, this should be an event.
Los Angeles Angels (30-25) at Detroit Tigers (24-30)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Halos Heaven
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Shohei Ohtani (4-1, 3.35 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Fiers (4-3, 4.78 ERA)
Game 55 Pitching Matchup
Where do we start? Ohtani has dominated opposing hitters so far, with a strikeout rate north of 30 percent and the ninth-best K-BB% rate among MLB starters. His fastball averages 98 miles per hour, and has hit triple digits at times. He backs that up with a splitter in the high-80s, and a mid-80s slider he is throwing even more often. The splitter is generating a ridiculous 30 percent whiff rate, and is his his put-away pitch; he uses it more than 40 percent of the time in two strike counts. The slider is at a respectable 16 percent whiff rate, but is more often used early in counts to keep hitters off his fastball. He also mixes in the occasional curveball against lefties, most often as a get-me-over pitch for strike one.
Key matchup: Ohtani vs. oh no, that lineup
Even though the Tigers have been surprisingly resilient so far this season, their lineup might be the easiest test of Ohtani’s young MLB career. He has faced a gauntlet of offenses so far, including stacked batting orders from Boston and Houston, surprising performers from Seattle and Tampa Bay, and the potent Oakland Athletics (twice). The Minnesota Twins are the only team Ohtani has faced with a wRC+ below 100, and he struck out 11 in 6 1⁄3 innings back on May 13.
The Tigers have been slightly better than Minnesota both overall and against right-handed pitching (90 wRC+ to 88), but are still missing one of their top performers in Miguel Cabrera. Add in Ohtani’s heavy reliance on the fastball and slider — two pitches the Tigers have struggled against just as much as Minnesota — and this game could be over rather quickly for Detroit’s hitters.
Ohtani throws a no-hitter.