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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: Detroit seeks its first sweep of 2019

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The Tigers look to ride the momentum of a four-game winning streak.

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Well, well, well. Three series into the 2019 season and the Tigers have already won a pair and split the other on the road. There is still a mighty long way to go, but on Sunday Detroit has a chance to sit four games over .500, a mark the team has not hit in two years. As the weather gets warmer, so should the offense, which has scored literally half of the team’s runs on the year over the past two games.

Despite this recent surge in batting, it has been the Tigers pitching, particularly the starting rotation, that has led the team thus far. Detroit starters are currently top five in all of baseball in both ERA and FIP, and just about everyone has looked good. Many saw the team’s starters as a bigger question mark than the bats coming into this year, so such a commanding beginning to the season is a great sign.

If there is one pitcher who has not quite yet impressed though, it would be Tyson Ross. The veteran signed a one-year deal over the offseason and looked mediocre against the Yankees, conceding two homers, four hits, and four walks while striking out four over five innings. It was not the worst start in the world, but Ross will hope to bounce back against an offense with theoretically less firepower. He might not be a heavy strikeout pitcher, but he will need to show better control in his second start.

Kansas City Royals (2-5) at Detroit Tigers (6-3)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Brad Keller (1-0, 2.08 ERA) vs. RHP Tyson Ross (0-1, 3.60 ERA)

Game 10 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Keller 13.0 19.6 9.8 2.84 0.3
Ross 5.0 17.4 17.4 9.00 -0.2

Brad Keller burst onto the scene last season with a dazzling 3.08 ERA and 3.55 FIP in over 140 innings. The 23-year old began the year in the bullpen, but eventually moved his way into the rotation. He made a single start against the Tigers last season — his final outing of the year — giving up just one run over seven innings to earn the win.

Keller does not strike out too many batters, but is able to find success by keeping the ball on the ground. He features a 54.6 percent career ground ball rate and a hard hit rate just over 30 percent, adding up to just 0.41 home runs per nine innings. His first two starts in 2019 season followed these trends exactly, as Keller has begun the season with 13 scoreless frames.

The Tigers have gotten to Royals pitching during this series but could be in trouble against Keller, who has looked excellent thus far. To earn the sweep, Detroit will likely need to string some hits together and try to stay out of double plays. Keller is not going to generate a ton of whiffs, but he does not allow many extra base hits either.

Key matchup: No. 7 thru No. 1 hitters vs. a cold start to the season

The entire Tigers offense has been somewhat cool to start 2019, but the bottom of the order (and circling back to leadoff man Josh Harrison), has been particularly rough. Harrison, Grayson Greiner, Jordy Mercer, Mikie Mahtook, and anyone else outside of the heart of the order has struggled to contribute much at the plate, with no one even sluggling above .200. Yikes.

Prediction

The offense cools back down as the Royals avoid the sweep.