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Tigers at Cleveland Preview: Detroit looks to bounce back behind Tarik Skubal

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The Tigers send a top prospect to the mound for his second outing of the season against a familiar foe.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Well Tigers fans, Friday night’s game was a bit of a bummer as Julio Teheran had to be replaced at the last minute by fellow newcomer Derek Holland as Detroit’s starting pitcher against the Cleveland Indians, and despite a commendable effort on his part as well as solid outings from Buck Farmer and Michael Fulmer, Detroit simply fell short in the end, losing by a score of 4-1.

On Saturday, the boys in the Olde English D look to redeem themselves on the road. They’ll have to prevent the kids on the Cuyahoga from clinching the series win behind their stud starting pitching prospect Tarik Skubal, who is looking to build on a solid opening outing to the season. On the mound opposite of him is a familiar foe in the form of one of Cleveland’s up-and-coming pitchers who handled the Tigers well the first time around in Game 3 of the 2021 season.

Detroit Tigers (3-4) at Cleveland Baseball Team (3-3)

Time/Place: 6:10 p.m., Progressive Field
SB Nation site: Covering the Corner
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (0-0, 3.38 ERA) vs. RHP Aaron Civale (1-0, 3.86 ERA)

Game 8 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Skubal 5.1 19 9.5 2.85 0.2
Civale 7 25 12.5 6.51 -0.1

Tarik Skubal takes the mound for the second time this season after a fine first appearance in the third game, an 87-pitch no-decision effort that resulted in a loss to this same Cleveland team on April 4. The young lefty fireballer earned his spot in the rotation after a fantastic spring that saw him put up a 1.59 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 17 innings in five appearances with three starts, allowing 11 hits, three earned runs and a dinger while striking out 18 and walking nine of the batters he faced while unveiling a split-finger offspeed offering that he threw four times last week in his season debut.

For the Tribe, Aaron Civale returns to the mound to face the Tigers once again after a successful outing the first time around against Skubal, tossing seven innings for the win despite an ugly FIP and accumulating negative fWAR. Now in his third season in the majors, he has been solid as a starter in Cleveland, putting up 1.5 and 1.2 fWAR in limited innings his first two seasons, respectively. For his debut campaign in 2019, the right-hander put up a sparkling 2.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 3.40 over 57 2⁄3 innings pitched, striking out 20.3 percent and walking just seven percent of batters faced.

He regressed a bit during the COVID-battered season of 2020 when he threw 74 innings while recording an elevated 4.74 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 4.04 FIP; his fastball average velocity also lost a tick as it dropped from 92.2 mph to 91.6 mph. Civale had a bit of a rough spring training but it appears that was due in large part to being a bit home run prone. He allowed nearly two per nine innings, and along with 17 hits and three walks allowed in 19 innings, so his bloated 5.21 ERA (despite a modest 1.16 WHIP) comes as little surprise. Typically Civale fills up the zone and doesn’t make big mistakes, but his stuff isn’t overpowering.

Key Matchup: Tigers offense vs. Civale II — The Baseball Boogaloo

Last time I previewed this matchup, I pointed out that the Tigers needed to get to Civale early like they had in their two previous games — both wins — and they actually came through with a two-run first inning (the third straight game in which they scored a pair of runs in the opening frame). Problem was, they only scored one more run the entire game while Cleveland punished the Tigers’ bullpen, crossing the plate in the final four innings including a four-run seventh. The Indians’ offense is not all that potent, but neither is Detroit's bullpen, so the bats are going to need to do some heavy lifting.