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Tigers vs. Blue Jays Preview: Tyler Alexander earns another start

The rookie lefthander was solid in his big league debut, but showed his razor-thin margin for error.

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Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox - Game Two Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Tyler Alexander was never going to blow hitters away at the pro level. Drafted in the second round back in 2015, Alexnder was always projected as a touch-and-feel lefthander who would slot into the back of a major league rotation if everything went well. He achieved that goal earlier this month, earning a doubleheader call-up to start against the Chicago White Sox.

All things considered, it went well. Alxander was greeted with a long home run off the bat of Yoan Moncada after striking out the first hitter he faced, but worked his way around five hits in five innings to put himself in line for the win. That didn’t happen — the bullpen blew a 5-2 lead, as it does — but Alexander certainly earned another big league start after his debut.

How will this one go? That remains to be seen, of course, but Alexander will need to do a bit more to avoid some of the hard contact he surrendered in his last MLB outing. He gave up hard contact on six of the 16 balls put in play against him, and advanced metrics taking quality of contact into account don’t like him very much, including a 5.45 Deserved Run Average (DRA).

One thing working in his favor? The Blue Jays aren’t nearly as good against lefties (88 wRC+) as the White Sox (102 wRC+). Can Alexander deliver another solid start and take home the win this time?

Toronto Blue Jays (38-62) at Detroit Tigers (29-65)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Bluebird Banter
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jacob Waguespack (1-0, 5.93 ERA) vs. LHP Tyler Alexander (0-0, 3.60 ERA)

Game 96 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Waguespack 13.2 22.0 6.8 4.32 0.1
Alexander 5.0 20.0 0.0 6.83 -0.1

If you have never heard of Jacob Waguespack before, I don’t blame you. The 25-year-old righthander was your typical cursory late round pick way back in 2012, one never expected to sign before heading off to college. He went to Ole Miss, but struggled to get on the field in his first two seasons, totaling just 27 23 innings. He broke out as a junior, with a 3.33 ERA in 46 innings out of the bullpen, but posted an ugly 1.54 WHIP and unimpressive strikeout rates. Ultimately, he went undrafted, and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Waguespack operated out of the bullpen in his first two years in the Phillies system, but finally earned some starts in 2017. He logged a career-high 122 innings last season between the Phillies and Blue Jays organizations — Toronto acquired him in the infamous Aaron Loup trade we all remember so well — but his numbers were far from spectacular. The same can be said for what he has done at Triple-A Buffalo this year, but Waguespack has earned a couple of call-ups along the way. He made his first career start against the Boston Red Sox five days ago, and gave up four runs in 4 23 innings.

Waguespack sports a deep arsenal of five pitches, but he relies heavily on two of them: his four-seam fastball and cutter. He has thrown those two pitches nearly 70 percent of the time in his brief major league career, with the other three offerings coming in sparingly. His four-seamer has averaged 94.1 miles per hour, and the cutter sits around 90-91 mph and generates plenty of contact on the ground. He will also mix in a curveball, slider, and changeup, with the change coming almost primarily against lefties.

Key matchup: Tigers offense vs. scoring runs

While Waguespack struck out seven Tampa Bay Rays in his major league debut, he has had trouble keeping runs off the board, both in his brief stint in the majors as well as down in Triple-A. This doesn’t always mean much for the Tigers, who now have baseball’s worst offense, with a 77 wRC+ on the year. That said, this is as promising of a matchup as they could presumably have at this point.

Prediction

The Tigers snap their losing streak and avoid the sweep.