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Detroit vs. Cleveland Preview: Tigers hope to stop four-game skid

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After winning four straight, the Tigers have now dropped four consecutive games as well.

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

With May quickly coming to an end, the Detroit Tigers are just about a third of the way through the 2021 season. There have not been too many surprises, which is not a good thing given that expectations coming into the season were generally low. On the whole, both hitting and pitching have left much to be desired so far in Year 6 (ish) of Al Avila’s tenure as GM.

This remains true at the player level as well. Jose Ureña was looking like a sneaky good signing, putting up a 2.68 ERA over six starts between April 11 and May 8. However, his most recent outings have both been rough, featuring nine earning runs in just 8 23 innings. Furthermore, the strikeouts have completely evaporated, and he is looking more like his usual self.

There is a reason that Ureña could be had (by a bad team) on a low one-year deal. For a moment it looked like maybe Detroit had discovered something other teams overlooked, and maybe could turn into a nice chip at the trade deadline, but at this point he looks pretty much like the pitcher he was from 2019-2020 with a 5.05 ERA, 4.99 FIP, and 6.53 K/9.

Detroit Tigers (18-30) vs. Cleveland Indians (26-20)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Covering the Corner
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jose Ureña (2-4, 4.62 ERA) vs. RHP Triston McKenzie (1-3, 6.89 ERA)

Game 56 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Mize 57.2 20.1 8.5 4.43 0.6
Keuchel 59.2 12.0 7.2 4.87 0.2

It was a great debut for Triston McKenzie in 2020. One of Cleveland’s top prospects, the youngster looked strong over 33 23 innings, posting a 3.24 ERA and 3.91 FIP while striking out over 11 batters per nine innings and keeping his walks low. As a result, he earned a rotation spot to start 2021, but the results have just not been there.

McKenzie was actually demoted after his most recent outing, which pushed his ERA to an ugly 6.89. While he has recorded 44 strikeouts over just 31 13 innings this season, he has also walked 30 batters while allowing eight homers. This is not going to work in the majors. However, Cleveland still needs a fifth pitcher, so McKenzie is back for Wednesday’s start. Maybe the Tigers offense will help him get back on track.

Key matchup: Ureña vs. bouncing back

I definitely do not expect Ureña to look like an All-Star, but he did pitch fairly respectably for a month before completely collapsing. The cause is not exactly clear, but it could be due in part to his velocity; his fastball has sat below 94 mph his last three outings — which was not the case his prior five — and hitters have seemingly taken advantage, as his barrel rate jumped from 4.8 percent to 12.3 percent. Another bad start here would probably solidify that unfortunately this is just who he is.