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Tigers vs. Athletics Preview: Tigers searching for answers amid 7-game losing streak

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Detroit has lost game in a number of ways over the last week.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, a single sentence says it all.

Just over a week ago, the Tigers were riding high off a five-game win streak. They were within a game of .500 and heading to Cincinnati to face the lowly Reds. The division-leading Indians were even within striking distance; while few expected the Tigers to contend even after their surprising start, taking the AL Central lead in late June would have made for fun viewing.

Instead, the Tigers dropped all five games in Ohio, and are now sitting on seven losses in a row, the seventh and most recent an implosion against the Athletics on Tuesday evening. They have lost 5 12 games in the standings over this seven-game stretch, and now sit in third place in the AL Central. The conversation around the team has shifted rapidly too, from one of surprise and optimism (if not outright wondering whether the team would shift its focus in July) to a laser-like focus on selling off parts at the trade deadline.

The Tigers’ 2018 fate is likely sealed at this point. They were longshots to make up a 2 12 game deficit on the Indians over the final three months of the year, and are almost certainly not going to do so now that Cleveland is running away from the pack. The trade deadline will likely weaken the Tigers’ roster as well, but provide younger players a chance to test their mettle over the final couple months of the year.

In the meantime, can you please win a game, Tigers?

Oakland Athletics (42-38) at Detroit Tigers (36-44)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Athletics Nation
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Chris Bassitt (0-3, 3.86 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Fiers (5-4, 4.29 ERA)

Game 81 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Bassitt 16.1 17.8 4.1 3.23 0.3
Fiers 77.2 17.3 5.4 5.14 0.3

The A’s did baseball fans a favor by pushing starter Sean Manaea back a day; instead of facing off against Mike Fiers, he will match up with Michael Fulmer in a must-see Thursday matinee. In Manaea’s place on Wednesday will be righthander Chris Bassitt. Like Tuesday starter Frankie Montas, Bassitt is also a former Chicago White Sox player who moved to Oakland when the Sox acquired Jeff Samardzija in 2014. The 29-year-old Bassitt has filled in as a capable starter, amassing a 4.14 ERA and 4.03 FIP in 26 career appearances with the A’s. He missed most of 2016 and 2017 with Tommy John surgery, and was knocked around in a brief return to the Pacific Coast League last fall.

Things have gone better for Bassitt this year, even if his ERA doesn’t suggest as much. He has allowed 28 runs (26 earned) in 38 13 innings at Triple-A Nashville, but has upped his strikeout rate to 22.5 percent while improving his command slightly. His Triple-A numbers still don’t jump off the board — he only has a 2.86 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors this year — but he has pounded the strike zone in his three MLB starts so far. Those also haven’t gone so well, with five unearned runs masking how things have really been with him on the mound.

Bassitt’s fastball velocity has fallen off slightly, but the slider is interesting.

He’s throwing the slider harder and more often, but that hasn’t translated to anything interesting like whiffs quite yet. However, we’re talking about a sample of 50-odd pitches, so it might not be worthy keeping an eye on going forward.

Key matchup: The Tigers vs. winning

Just stop the losing streak, please.

Prediction

Fiers and the Tigers finally snap their losing streak.

Gameday reading