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Tigers vs. Rays Preview: This is a bad, bad matchup

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The Tigers struggle to hit on the road and against righthanders. They face Chris Archer at Tropicana Field on Monday.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Archer is going to eat this Tigers offense alive. Sure, the 29-year-old still can’t quite figure out how to translate his superlative raw talent and excellent peripherals into actual results — this is his third consecutive year with an ERA above 4.00 — but, as mentioned, he has superlative raw talent. Meanwhile, the Tigers are one of the worst offenses in baseball against right-handed pitching and on the road.

See where I’m going with this?

The Tigers haven’t been very good offensively on the whole this year, and that’s with respectable numbers at Comerica Park. Meanwhile, they average just 3.43 runs per game on the road. Their 81 wRC+ in road games is the fourth-lowest in all of baseball. They have struggled even more with Miguel Cabrera out for the season too; since June 1 (a few days before Cabrera suffered his season-ending injury) the Tigers are averaging just 3.5 runs per game, regardless of venue.

Archer, in particular, represents a bad matchup for this Tigers team. He throws either a four-seam fastball or a slider 90 percent of the time. Unfortunately, those two pitches happen to be two that this Tigers club struggle considerably against. According to FanGraphs’ pitch values, the Tigers are the AL’s fourth-worst team against fastballs, and the fourth-worst team in baseball against sliders.

Happy Monday, right?

Detroit Tigers (40-52) at Tampa Bay Rays (45-44)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Tropicana Field
SB Nation site: DRaysBay
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Francisco Liriano (3-5, 4.03 ERA) vs. RHP Chris Archer (3-4, 4.24 ERA)

Game 93 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Liriano 73.2 18.7 13.4 5.27 0.0
Archer 76.1 23.7 8.1 3.80 1.2

The biggest knock on Chris Archer coming into this season was that he gave up too many home runs to reach elite level production. Well, turns out we were wrong. Archer has largely solved his home run problem this season, cutting the homer rate down to just 1.06 per nine innings. However, that hasn’t translated into results. He is still allowing a 4.24 ERA, a figure over half a run higher than his 3.80 FIP.

Despite not allowing as many home runs, opponents are still hitting the ball hard. According to Statcast, Archer has allowed hard contact on nearly 40 percent of balls in play. His average exit velocity against is 90.1 miles per hour, the highest of his career and among the highest in the major leagues. More of this contact is coming on the ground than it did last year, but he still isn’t getting outs as quickly as the Rays (and Archer fantasy owners) would like.

Key matchup: Francisco Liriano vs. walks on walks on walks

Liriano has always been one to play with fire in terms of his command (or lack thereof) and high walk totals. However, things have tipped over the edge recently. Since Liriano came off the disabled list on June 23, he has issued 12 walks in three starts. That’s 12 walks to just 71 batters faced, a brutal 17 percent walk rate. This high walk rate is especially dangerous for him now, considering his strikeout rate has dropped off considerably over the past couple years (he’s at a career-low 18.7 percent this year). While the Rays aren’t the most patient team at the plate — they rank in the middle of the pack in walk rate and see the fewest pitches per plate appearance of any AL team — they would be wise to play the waiting game tonight and force Liriano to find the strike zone.

Prediction

Archer throws a complete game and the Rays win game one.

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