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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: Veteran Ivan Nova faces youngster Brady Singer

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Nova will seek to find his command in his second start of the season.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As we all expected, the Detroit Tigers have followed up their shaky Opening Day performance with a 4-1 stretch, including a series win over the Cincinnati Reds. On Thursday at Comerica Park, Ivan Nova and the Detroit Tigers will seek to go 2-for-2 in series victories, as they play a fourth game versus the Kansas City Merrifields — err, Royals.

How unlikely is this?

Well, to quantify this in an extremely cherrypicked way, the Tigers’ .667 win percentage is their highest through July 29 since 2006 (that team was 70-33 and had a .680 win percentage). As we all know, that team made the World Series, so the safe presumption in an expanded playoff field is that we are reliving 2006 all over again.

If you have been keeping track of this team over the past couple of years, you should know that even these rebuilding Tigers squads have started out solid to open the year. In fact, the last Tigers team to start the season with a 4-2 record or better through six games was the 2017 squad, who started 4-2 before ending the year with the first overall pick in the MLB Draft. And while it is true that the 2017 Opening Day roster contained the likes of Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, and other strong players, the 2019 squad started off even better, posting a 7-3 record through their first 10 games.

Nevertheless, there is a slightly different feeling in the air this season. Detroit is 10 percent of the way through the entire season and can secure its second series win in two tries in this one. Does this team have another early-season series win in them?

Detroit Tigers (4-2) at Kansas City Royals (2-4)

Time/Place: 7:10 pm, Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching matchup: RHP Brady Singer (0-0, 3.60 ERA) vs. RHP Ivan Nova (0-0, 5.40 ERA)

This game will be greatly shaped by the performance of rookie right-handed pitcher Brady Singer, who was selected in the 2018 MLB draft with the 18th overall selection. Singer was highly touted coming out of Florida, and some outlets, including Baseball America, projected him to become the first overall pick in the draft before Tigers prospect Casey Mize’s dominant season at Auburn.

Injury, and a mediocre start to his junior year saw Singer fall further in the draft than most pundits expected, yet he debuted before any of the players selected before him on draft day, tossing five strong innings against the Cleveland Indians just 10 days before his 24th birthday. Singer shows a quality fastball in the mid-90s along with a tight slider and a lesser used changeup.

He was far from pinpoint against the Indians, but kept things all around the zone working upstairs with the heater, and down with heavy doses of the slider. With those two plus pitches, Singer was able to draw 14 swinging strikes against Cleveland, so the stuff was dancing. Against a lineup like Detroit’s — one that is already generating enough wind power to earn a federal subsidy — he could be very tough despite lacking a solid third offering right now.

Singer has, to date, only pitched 90 23 innings in Double-A, and he has never pitched the Triple-A level. Furthermore, he is not nearly as highly touted as fellow 2018 draftee Mize at this point in time. FanGraphs does not have Singer in their top 126 prospects, while Mize is currently their No. 16 prospect in the game.

Can the Tigers get to the inexperienced pitcher early and often? Will Singer’s second start be better than his first? While we’re at, can Ivan Nova post a quality start (or even something close to it)? All will be revealed soon.

Key Match-Up: Tigers hitters vs. regression to the mean

The Tigers lineup is currently filled with high highs and low lows. Miguel Cabrera, Jeimer Candelario, and Christin Stewart are all batting under .100. Free agent acquisitions Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron, meanwhile, have an .826 and a .910 OPS, respectively. And, of course, JaCoby Jones is batting .421 with a 1.450 OPS and a home run in every other game this season. We all know that none of this is sustainable, but it’s up to guys like Cabrera and Stewart to find their stroke as guys like Jones come back down to earth. (Unless, of course, Jones continues at this pace and finishes the season with 20 home runs in a 60-game season — which extrapolates to 54 in a 162-game season — and a Barry Bonds-like OPS. In that case, I for one welcome our new JaCobian overlord.)