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Detroit Tigers at Cincinnati Reds Preview: Things aren’t getting any easier for the Tigers

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The Reds have a three-man gauntlet at the top of their rotation, and next up is Luis Castillo.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

In case you missed it, the Tigers were in midseason form on Friday as they took on the Cincinnati Reds. Unfortunately, Detroit’s “midseason form” looks awfully different from the midseason form of most major league teams over the past few years. Perhaps we all should be hoping for the Tigers to return to their “early-season form” from the past couple of seasons. After all, Detroit finished April 2019 with a decent 13-14 record, and in 2018, they sat with a 36-37 record in mid-June.

On Saturday, the Tigers will send out right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova to make his Detroit Tigers regular-season debut on the mound. Nova pitched against the Tigers with the Chicago White Sox multiple times last season. In his four starts against them in 2019, Nova posted an impressive 3.33 ERA in 24 13 innings pitched, though he only struck out 11 Tigers over that span. While Nova’s overall numbers were less impressive, finishing with a 4.72 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, his 3.72 second-half ERA was much better than his disastrous 5.58 ERA before the All-Star break.

At age 33, it’s hard to believe that the Tigers are expecting some kind of “bounce back” season for Nova, especially as there isn’t really any season for him to bounce back to; after all, Nova’s 2.0 fWAR last season was only 0.3 fWAR off from his career-high fWAR in 2016. Nevertheless, we will see what he has in store this evening.

Detroit Tigers (0-1) at Cincinnati Reds (1-0)

Time/Place: 5:10 pm, Great American Ball Park
SB Nation site: Red Reporter
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching matchup: RHP Ivan Nova (11-12, 4.72 ERA) vs. RHP Luis Castillo (15-8, 3.40 ERA)

Game 2 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Nova (2019) 187.0 14.1 5.8 4.98 2.0
Castillo (2019) 190.2 28.9 10.1 3.70 4.1

In a season where one game is equal to 2.7 games, things will not get any easier for the Tigers in this series, as the Reds have an impressive trio of pitchers leading their rotation. While it was Sonny Gray’s turn to baffle Tigers hitters on Friday, Luis Castillo will attempt to follow up Gray’s performance in game two. Castillo is entering his age-27 season and broke out during the Reds’ 2019 campaign, primarily by limiting the amount of home runs he allowed despite pitching in a hitter-friendly ballpark during the age of the juiced ball. If Castillo can keep the ball in the park, expect him to build upon his 2019 campaign tonight. Trevor Bauer takes the mound for the Reds on Sunday.

Key matchup: Ivan Nova vs. familiar faces

Nova pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2016 through 2018, so many Reds veterans have a lot of experience facing Nova. Of the six Reds that have faced Nova 10 or more times, five have a .333 batting average or better, and a couple have had even more success. This includes former Tiger Nicholas Castellanos, who batted .429 against Nova in 14 at-bats while playing for Detroit, and Freddy Galvis, who is hitting .529 against Nova through 17 at-bats. These are small sample sizes, sure, but it is concerning that half of the Reds lineup has knocked around Nova in the past.

The Pick: The Tigers move to 0-and-5.4 — pardon me, 0-2 — despite a serviceable performance from Nova, as Luis Castillo strikes out double-digit Tigers hitters in a dominant first start.