The Detroit Tigers have lost five games in a row. However, given the manner in which they have lost on their current road trip, it feels like 25 losses in a row. If anything, it feels like a surprise that the Tigers are “only” 11-19 since July 1. They have been anemic offensively since Miguel Cabrera went down for the year in mid-June — their wRC+ over the past 30 days is down to 52, or basically what Dixon Machado hit this season — and the pitching has been unable to keep up.
There’s not much we can do about that. The 2018 Tigers are a bad baseball team, and don’t have much incentive to call up prospects for a face-saving stretch run. If anything, we learned last year that enduring an awful August and September can pay dividends the following season. It would be nice to see the Tigers call up a couple of younger players, including left-handed starter Matt Hall, but making widespread changes just to win a few more ballgames this summer would be unwise.
In the meantime, we wait. We hope that Tuesday’s offensive outburst eventually turns into an extra win here or there, and we see if young players like Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum can shake their current slumps for a strong finish to the season.
And if they can’t? Well, it might drive some of us insane.
Detroit Tigers (47-67) at Los Angeles Angels (57-58)
Time/Place: 4:07 p.m., Angels Stadium
SB Nation site: Halos Heaven
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Blaine Hardy (4-3, 3.25 ERA) vs. RHP Jaime Barria (6-7, 3.84 ERA)
Game 115 Pitching Matchup
Jaime Barria is a young righthander who reached the majors in his age-21 season, but he doesn’t have the loud raw stuff most 21-year-old rookies possess. His fastball has only averaged 92.1 miles per hour this year, and he is down to around 91 mph in August. He supplements the heater with a slurvey slider he used over 36 percent of the time in July, as well as a changeup that FanGraphs graded as his best pitch when they named him the No. 7 prospect in the system heading into this year.
Barria’s carrying tool is his command. He posted minuscule walk rates in the minors, and has managed a modest 7.1 percent walk rate in the majors this year. His strikeout and home run rates are both worse than major league average, however, resulting in an ugly 4.99 FIP in 82 innings. That hasn’t affected his bottom line, though; thanks to a .261 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and 80.8 percent strand rate, his ERA is over a full run lower than his advanced numbers.
Do you like the Midwest? I hope you like the Midwest
Following this game, the Tigers have an off day on Thursday before they kick off a looooong stretch of games against Central division teams. Just 15 of their final 47 games come against teams outside the AL Central, and eight of those are against NL Central teams. The Tigers only play one more series outside of a “flyover” state — a four-game set against the New York Yankees on Labor Day weekend.
Key matchup: Jeimer Candelario vs. that slump we talked about
One of the main reasons the Tigers have been baseball’s worst offense over the past couple months is the sharp decline of Jeimer Candelario. He was a godsend in April and May, hitting .275/.367/.526 with eight home runs. He maintained that strong walk rate in June, but fell to a .172 average for the month.
Then the wheels came off. Candelario hit .182/.217/.260 in July with two home runs and no doubles or triples. His strikeout rate grew as well; in June and July, Candelario fanned in nearly 29 percent of plate appearances.
He might finally be snapping out of it, though. Candelario is 5-for-20 with a double and a home run over the past week, and has a modest .736 OPS in 21 plate appearances. His plate discipline still isn’t quite what it was — he only has two walks to nine strikeouts in the past two weeks — but he has looked better at the plate, including a two-hit game (with three RBI) on Tuesday.
Hardy delivers a win and the Tigers avoid a road sweep.