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Tigers vs. Astros Preview: An ace-off this is not

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If only Justin Verlander could start for the injury-decimated Tigers’ rotation on Wednesday.

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MLB: Houston Astros at Detroit Tigers Eric Bronson-USA TODAY Sports Images

In 2005, OK Go released their smash hit “Here It Goes Again.” Fourteen years later, the Tigers echo this sentiment; today, the depleted Tigers rotation sends out Gregory Soto against...*checks notes*...ah, yes, a Mr. Justin Verlander.

Let’s start with Verlander, because he’s probably the reason you are reading this preview. Verlander has continued to dominate this season, especially in his recent starts. He has allowed one run or less in five of his last six starts, posting a 0.62 WHIP along the way (the worst start in that span was when he went six-and-one-third innings against the Angels in Anaheim, allowing four earned runs). Additionally, Verlander has thrown a quality start in seven-of-nine appearances this season. He’s set for another strong appearance against a Tigers lineup that has posted a sub-.300 on-base percentage against right-handed pitching this season.

Meanwhile, the Tigers are set to send out Gregory Soto. In other words, Ron Gardenhire will likely be heading to the bullpen early. Soto allowed seven runs in four-plus innings in his major league debut against the Minnesota Twins last Saturday, and he only managed to strike out one hitter despite throwing a solid fastball. Soto’s start comes with Tyson Ross recently moving to the 10-day injured list with right elbow neuritis. With Ross on the IL, the Tigers are down to two healthy members from their initial starting rotation from less than two months ago (Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull).

While Verlander has allowed one or fewer runs in five of his past six appearances, the Tigers have only scored 14 runs in their last six games, including two separate shutouts. This could be a long game (unless you’re rooting for Verlander, of course).

Houston Astros (28-15) at Detroit Tigers (18-22)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: The Crawfish Boxes
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (6-1, 2.51 ERA) vs. LHP Gregory Soto

Game 41 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Verlander 57.1 30.6 6.3 3.94 1
Soto 4 4.4 8.7 7.36 -0.1

Key matchup: Detroit’s strikeout-prone lineup vs. Justin Verlander

While this game may seem like a sure loss at a glance, recall that Justin Verlander is actually 1-1 with a 4.85 ERA in his career against Detroit (hooray, small sample sizes!). On July 15, 2018, the Tigers defeated the Astros, 6-3, as Justin Verlander went six innings and striking out 12 while allowing six hits and six runs (five earned). Verlander exacted his revenge in his first return to Comerica Park last September, as the Astros won 3-2 behind Verlander’s seven-inning effort in which he allowed two runs on six hits and two walks while racking up another 10 strikeouts. So, sure: stranger things have already happened and the Tigers defeated Verlander the first time they ever squared off against him. Nevertheless, Verlander has a 56.4% strikeout percentage against Detroit in two starts, and the Tigers are as strikeout-prone as ever. This could get ugly fast.

Prediction

The Tigers have scored more than five runs in only five games this season. They probably aren’t going to do so against Justin Verlander, and Soto will struggle to hold the vaunted Astros offense to stay below five runs. The Astros should win this ballgame, but who knows stranger things have happened than an unexpected Tigers victory.