Remember back in 2012, when one of the biggest stories floating around baseball was the imminent shutdown of Washington Nationals righthander Stephen Strasburg. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Strasburg was limited to 159 1⁄3 innings before the Nationals shut him down in early September — no weaning, no playoff innings, nothing. While having their ace on the sidelines wasn’t the only reason the Nats were bounced in the NLDS, it certainly didn’t help. It’s a decision that still draws ire around the sports world (especially here in D.C.) to this day.
There are several differences between this and what the Tigers are (might?) be going through with lefthander Daniel Norris right now. For one, we don’t even know if they are considering shutting Norris down. It certainly would make sense if they did; Norris is already on pace for roughly 150 innings this year. Not only would this be a career high, but it would be a huge jump after Norris threw just 56 innings in total last season.
The circumstances surrounding a potential shutdown are much different, of course, but general manager Al Avila and the Tigers front office deserve some credit for keeping quiet about any potential shutdown. That we don’t even know if Norris’ innings will be curtailed — let alone a younger arm like right-handed prospect Matt Manning — indicates that the Tigers would, at the very least, be able to avoid the type of circus we saw with the Nationals several years ago.
Then again, even reaching the first round of the playoffs would feel pretty good at this point.
Toronto Blue Jays (37-62) at Detroit Tigers (29-64)
Time/Place: 6:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Bluebird Banter
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Trent Thornton (3-7, 5.25 ERA) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (2-8, 5.14 ERA)
Game 95 Pitching Matchup
Trent Thornton made his major league debut against the Tigers earlier this season. He tossed five scoreless innings and struck out eight, but saw his club eventually fall in extra innings. While we didn’t expect a ton out of the Tigers offensively this year, it was nonetheless an impressive major league debut.
One might look at his ERA and surmise that it has all gone downhill from there, but Thornton has actually enjoyed a solid rookie season. He has had his ups-and-downs, but has shown flashes of potential at times. He tossed back-to-back quality starts in Houston and Boston last month, struck out 10 San Diego Padres earlier this year, and has turned in a few gem outings along the way.
In fact, Thornton had a respectable 4.25 ERA as recently as June 21. He has faltered since then, however, with 17 runs allowed on 26 hits in his last four starts. He failed to make it through the fourth inning in three of those, and the fourth was against the Baltimore Orioles — though it’s also worth mentioning that the other three were against the Yankees and Red Sox.
Key matchup: Tigers offense vs. scoring runs
We predicted way back in March that Thornton’s high spin rate arsenal would give the Tigers offense problems, and voila! Five scoreless innings to open his career. The same concerns ring true today, as Thornton is still relying heavily on his four-seam fastball and a trio of off-speed pitches. Lefties have hit him harder than righties this year, but the Tigers have struggled from both sides of the plate, especially at home.
Thornton has another solid outing and the Blue Jays win another one.