Heading into this season, we knew the Detroit Tigers were going to go through rough patches. Any team that loses 90 games or more will go through an extended losing streak at some point. However, after the Tigers got off to a modest start that saw them in second place on May 1, and just a few games under .500 two days later. Many fans got their hopes up a little bit — admit it, you did — and put those pending rough patches out of their minds.
The Tigers might be in one now. After a series win over the Tampa Bay Rays to open the month, the Tigers have gone just 1-4. They dropped three of four against the very beatable Kansas City Royals over the weekend, and flubbed away another winnable game down in Texas on Monday evening.
Whether the Tigers break out of this rough stretch or not, the past few games have been a harsh reminder that they are still very much a rebuilding club. Worse yet, the schedule will only get harder from here. The best we can hope for is that this young team will start to learn from its mistakes and take a step forward as the season goes on.
Detroit Tigers (14-20) at Texas Rangers (14-23)
Time/Place: 8:05 p.m., Globe Life Park
SB Nation site: Lone Star Ball
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Mike Fiers (2-2, 5.00 ERA) vs. LHP Mike Minor (3-1, 4.36 ERA)
Game 35 Pitching Matchup
After missing nearly all of 2015 and 2016 with a shoulder injury, Mike Minor returned to the majors in a big way last year. The Kansas City Royals used him exclusively out of the bullpen, and the 30-year-old lefty thrived, holding opponents to a 2.55 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 77 2⁄3 innings. He cashed in on that performance last winter, signing a three-year, $28 million with the Rangers.
While there are concerns about Minor’s durability after having labrum surgery in 2015, he has gotten off to a nice start this season. Minor has allowed a 4.36 ERA so far, but has posted solid strikeout and walk numbers en route to a 3.83 FIP. He has also maintained his high swinging strike rate from last year, and could eventually start fanning more hitters if that whiff rate persists. There are some ominous signs, though. Opponents are hitting the ball hard over 40 percent of the time, and he has benefited from a bit of home run luck thus far.
Key matchup: Both starters vs. ample run support
You won’t find Fiers and Minor atop the run support leaderboards for this season, but both starters have received ample backing from their respective teams so far this season. Minor ranks 30th among qualified MLB starters at 5.4 runs per game, while Fiers is a hair behind him at 5.1 runs per game. This isn’t a huge amount, but is still above-average production relative to what each offense has done this season. The Tigers are scoring just 4.35 runs per game in 2018, while the injury-riddled Rangers are at just 4.08 runs per game.
Fiers, in particular, may need a little more help. He isn’t missing as many bats as usual this year, and is relying heavily on his defense to get outs. He has a high fly ball rate, and hasn’t pitched well in his few career outings at Globe Life Park. While this stadium isn’t the same launchpad it once was, the ball seemed to travel very well on Monday evening as the Tigers and Rangers combined for 13 runs. With Fiers almost certain to cough up a few runs, his offense will need to step up behind him.
Minor and the Rangers make it two in a row.
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