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Tigers vs. Blue Jays Preview: Alright guys, this is getting ridiculous

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The Tigers are currently sitting on their longest losing streak since the 2003 season.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Houston Astros Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

As you probably have heard, the 2018 Tigers matched the 2003 team’s longest losing streak on Saturday with their 11th consecutive loss. But say it with me: this team is not as bad as that one. The 2003 team obviously had a number of other smaller streaks mixed in en route to their 43-119 record, while the 2018 club has nearly eclipsed the ‘03 team’s win total through just three months.

Were the Tigers to lose again on Sunday, you would have to go back to 1996 to find the franchise’s last 12-game losing streak. That ‘96 club actually lost 12 in a row on two separate occasions, and finished the year with a 53-109 record, the second-worst record in franchise history.

These numbers obviously don’t bode well for the 2018 team, but they have run into a lot of bad luck during their streak. For one, they have scored first in six of their 11 losses, including three games with leads of three runs or more. Their pitching hasn’t been able to hold those leads, whether it be starters faltering the third time through the order or the bullpen giving up chances in the later innings. But the offense has also been to blame, scoring just 29 runs in the past 11 games.

They are much better against lefties than right-handed pitching, though, which bodes well for them in this game. Can the Tigers finally turn it around and stop their losing streak?

Detroit Tigers (36-48) at Toronto Blue Jays (39-43)

Time/Place: 1:07 p.m., Rogers Centre
SB Nation site: Bluebird Banter
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (2-0, 4.35 ERA) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (10-3, 3.62 ERA)

Game 85 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Zimmermann 41.1 22.5 5.8 3.51 1.0
Happ 97.0 27.0 6.9 3.58 2.0

J.A. Happ has been a strikeout machine this year, punching out 27 percent of the batters he has faced. We pointed out why earlier this year (by way of FanGraphs’ Travis Sawchik) and Happ rewarded us with one of his worst starts of the year. Of course, it says something that Happ had a rough outing against the Tigers — he gave up four runs in five innings in a loss — but still struck out eight hitters on the game.

Since then, we have actually seen the punchouts drop off a bit. Happ has racked up just 19 strikeouts in his last 26 13 innings, and has fanned four batters or fewer in three of his past four starts. He is still keeping runs off the board, though, as he has a 2.39 ERA in those four outings.

Key matchup: Jordan Zimmermann vs. the third time through the order penalty

The Tigers have been treating Zimmermann with kid gloves since he came off the disabled list. He failed to eclipse the 80-pitch mark in both of his June starts, and was removed after just 19 batters in each outing. He pitched five innings in both starts, but was not given the chance to face the opponent’s lineup a third time despite a reasonable pitch count. This would have been blasphemy for the Zimmermann the Tigers were hoping for when they signed him in November 2015, but is probably for the best with the current version.

Still, the Tigers need some length out of their rotation, and Zimmermann might be one of their better shots at delivering that right now. He tossed five scoreless innings in his last start, and continues to put up excellent strikeout and walk numbers. If he can get through the first few innings efficiently, we might see Ron Gardenhire and the coaching staff gamble a bit to see if they can squeeze six innings or more out of their veteran righthander. It might go well. It might go poorly. But after 11 losses in a row, anything is worth a try.

Prediction

Another soul-crushing loss.

Gameday reading