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Tigers vs. Cubs Preview: Ureña looks to start new winning streak

The Tigers’ four-game run was snapped on Friday night but the team can start a new winning streak on Saturday.

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

Well Tigers fans, the winning was fun while it lasted. On Friday night, the Chicago Cubs came to town and took the first of a three-game weekend series, 4-2, to snap the Detroit Tigers’ four-game winning streak. It was not a bad loss — Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, while not quite the pitcher he used to be, is still a formidable opponent and the Tigers did manage to stroke a couple of back-to-back dingers. But the night belonged to the north-siders from the Windy City.

On Saturday, the two teams take the field again for an afternoon tangle as the boys in the Olde English D look to get back on the winning track. The good guys are sending one of their best to the mound while the visitors offer up a vulnerable hurler, who the Tigers have a chance to chomp on if things go well.

Detroit Tigers (13-25) vs. Chicago Cubs (18-19)

Time/Place: 4:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: Bleed Cubbie Blue
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP José Ureña (1-4, 3.60 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Williams (2-2, 5.81 ERA)

Game 39 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Ureña 40.0 18.0 10.5 3.55 0.7
Williams 31.0 24.0 11.0 5.10 0.0

José Ureña has been walking on a tightrope this season on the mound — albeit with some encouraging success — but many wonder if this is a mirage or a sustainable adjustment in his approach. He has held his opponents to just two runs in all but his season-opener this season while pitching seven innings in four of those. Between his ability to eat frames off the board and limit the opposition’s damage while he is on the mound, Ureña is a major cog in the starting rotation so far in 2021.

Nothing has really changed overall in his numbers since we last previewed his start, but he did stumble a bit in his most recent game against the Minnesota Twins, in which he only lasted 4 13 innings while throwing an inefficient 94 pitches — but the Tigers ended up earning the win that night. Ureña will try to get back to his seven-inning pace when he toes the runner against the Cubs.

Chicago sends Trevor Williams to the mound on Saturday, who has been extremely underwhelming for the third-straight season — the two prior with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He did manage to accumulate 0.9 fWAR in 2019 with the Bucs in 145 23 innings despite a 5.38 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 5.12 FIP. In fact, his WHIP has increased in each of the past three seasons, peaking at a career-high 1.74 in 2021.

Williams employs a five-pitch arsenal in which he throws his four-seam fastball (91.6 mph) a plurality of the time at 41.7% while presenting his slider (83.2 mph) 17.2% of the time, followed by sinker (89.3 mph) at 13.7%, curveball (77.8 mph) at 13.7% and changeup (83.4 mph) at 8.3%. Beyond that, they say a picture is worth a thousand words; here is that picture courtesy of Baseball Savant.

Baseball Savant

Key Matchup: José Ureña vs. Chicago’s offense

The likelihood that the Tigers will put some crooked numbers up on the scoreboard Saturday against Williams is pretty high, so if Ureña can stick to his two-runs-allowed paradigm things are looking up. Overall, the Cubs’ offense is lower-middle of the pack when it comes to batting average (20th) and home runs (18th) but they do get on base pretty well (9th). Detroit’s pitcher has danced around runners on base pretty well so far this season so it should not be overly surprising if Ureña does what he has been doing and the Tigers manage to eke out a win.