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Tigers vs. Athletics Preview: Yup, Edwin Jackson is still pitching (and pitching well!)

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Jackson has a 3.32 ERA in seven starts since making his 2018 debut at Comerica Park in June.

Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Six weeks ago, Edwin Jackson made history when he started a game for the A’s, the 13th club of his career. He limited the Tigers to one run on six hits in six innings, and the A’s won 5-4. It was the first of four games between the clubs, but no one thought much of the outing; Jackson was facing a Tigers lineup struggling at the time, and it was just one game.

Turns out not much has changed. Jackson has compiled similar results against other, better lineups. He has a 3.32 ERA in seven starts with the A’s, and has only given up more than three runs on one occasion. Even his advanced numbers aren’t bad! His 4.23 FIP suggests some regression, but his strikeout and walk numbers are the strongest he has maintained since 2012. That .226 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) will get higher at some point, but there aren’t any huge red flags here.

Even if there were, it might not matter against this Tigers lineup. They have been baseball’s worst offense for nearly two months now, dating back to Miguel Cabrera’s season-ending injury in June. Over the past 30 days, they are down to a 60 wRC+, 40 percent below league average. Only three qualified hitters have been that bad this season, and Victor Martinez has just been a hair better.

I mean, even a near-no-hitter isn’t enough to get a win at this point.

Detroit Tigers (47-63) at Oakland Athletics (65-46)

Time/Place: 9:05 p.m., Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
SB Nation site: Athletics Nation
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (4-3, 4.44 ERA) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (2-2, 3.32 ERA)

Game 111 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Zimmermann 71.0 22.6 4.4 4.03 1.2
Jackson 40.2 19.3 7.8 4.23 0.5

There was a lot of excitement surrounding Jordan Zimmermann near the All-Star break, but it has all but evaporated already. Zimmermann has given up at least four runs in each of his past three starts, resulting in a 7.98 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk rate is still strong, but opponents are otherwise squaring him up to the tune of a .358/.380/.716 line with six home runs in just 71 plate appearances over that span. He threw five scoreless innings against these A’s in June as part of that four-start streak everyone was so geeked about, but it’s anyone’s guess which Zimmermann shows up in this game.

Key matchup: The Tigers’ bullpen vs. a longer stretch of success

Don’t look now, but the Tigers bullpen has actually been pretty good for a little while now. They have the third-best ERA in the American League over the past 30 days, and are second with a 3.23 FIP (Oakland is first by a mile in both categories). While they aren’t striking anyone out — their 17.9 percent strikeout rate during this stretch is last among AL teams — they have limited walks and home runs more capably than earlier in the year.

Is this a mirage? Maybe. But the Tigers have improved from being baseball’s worst bullpen in 2017 to a simply mediocre unit this year. They also have some useful pieces in Joe Jimenez, Drew VerHagen, and possibly Victor Alcantara that might be around for a few years.

Prediction

Jackson tosses seven scoreless innings and the A’s make it two in a row.

Gameday reading