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Detroit vs. New York Preview: Skubal, Tigers look to sweep the Yankees

The Tigers have taken the first two of the weekend series and have a great chance to sweep on Sunday.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Well Detroit Tigers fans, it has been a fun weekend so far in the Motor City as their patron baseball team has taken the first two games of a three-game set against the Evil Empire, also known as the New York Yankees, with a 6-1 win on Saturday afternoon behind a surging Spencer Turnbull and a reanimated offense. Now on Sunday, the boys in the Olde English D have a chance to sweep the series and get a three-game winning streak going if they can do it one more time.

It will not be easy to seal the deal as the Bronx Bombers are no pushovers despite a lackluster start — by their standards — to the 2021 season. However, Sunday’s pitching matchup leaves the possibilities wide open as the Tigers send their young, but struggling pitching stud up against a pitcher looking to find his footing in the big leagues. Here is a look at what is in store.

Detroit Tigers (21-31) vs. New York Yankees (29-23)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: Pinstripe Alley
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (1-7, 5.23 ERA) vs. RHP Michael King (0-1, 2.29 ERA)

Game 53 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Skubal 43.0 25.1 10.3 6.31 -0.4
King 19.2 21.7 9.6 3.98 0.1

Tarik Skubal has been a bit of a frustrating pitcher for the Tigers this season. Armed with an arsenal that should play well in the majors but he is still getting his feel for the big lights. He has been improving, however, and this past month has been his best ever as he improves his secondary offerings. Pitcher List did a great breakdown of the young lefty’s pitching repertoire in this article published on Saturday.

The article notes that his most recent outing on May 25 was his best of the year, and they are correct — though the bar is pretty low at the moment. Going five innings on an inefficient 95 pitches, he gave up six hits, two runs and a walk — including a dinger — while striking out an impressive nine batters. His season-high for innings pitched came two starts prior when he tossed six frames but gave up four runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out just five on 95 throws. Efficiency seems to be one of Skubal’s bigger hurdles right now — if he can find a way to get through the Yankees’ batters quicker, it would help his team immensely.

The Yankees send Michael King to the mound to face the Tigers on Sunday, a third-year major leaguer who has mostly been sipping coffee in the bigs during his pro career. After an ugly showing in 2020 in just 26.2 innings — 7.76 ERA, 5.14 FIP and 1.54 WHIP ugly — the right-hander is off to a solid start this season putting up respectable numbers in a small sample size. However, his FIP of 3.98, which is 1.71 above his ERA suggests he has been a bit lucky, but even without that luck, he would still be an effective pitcher.

So what is ol’ Mikey from New York packing? The 26-year-old features a five-pitch repertoire that starts with his sinker (93.4 mph) that he uses 49.2 percent of the time, followed by a cutter (87.6 mph) that he uses 28.4 percent, a changeup (84.6 mph) he uses 14.7 percent, a four-seam fastball (94.6 mph) 6.7 percent and a curveball (77.8 mph) that he’s used just three times in 2021. According to Baseball Savant’s percentile rankings, King excels among his peers at average exit velocity (67th percentile) and maximum exit velocity (79th percentile). He has the ability to move both on the x- and y-axis with his arsenal, which could be tough for the Tigers’ hitters.

Key Matchup: Tarik Skubal vs. hard-hit balls

One thing that has really plagued the 24-year-old Tigers prospect this season is the hard-hit ball, for which he ranks at the bottom of the league in several categories, per Baseball Savant. Take a look for yourself.

Baseball Savant

Additionally, his .384 woBA is in the bottom 8th percentile and his .468 xwOBAcon (mmmmm... bacon) is in the bottom 7th percentile of the league. The kid is getting smacked around and hopefully those secondary pitch adjustments and additions will help solve the issue. If not, the potent Yankees lineup may awaken from their slumber against the youngster.