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Tigers vs. Red Sox Preview: Is that a series victory we smell?

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After a thrilling 10th inning victory on Wednesday night, the Tigers are looking to win their first series in three weeks.

Boston Red Sox v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Thursday afternoon the Tigers will try and win their first series for the first time since — checks notes — sweeping Houston three weeks ago. In their final game of their series from Fenway Park against the Red Sox, the Tigers will send the Red Bull, Spencer Turnbull to the mound to face off against Nathan Eovaldi.

I don’t think I’m going to shock anyone reading this when I say that the Tigers are not very good. However, this series against the Red Sox has been a few encouraging signs for Detroit. Despite losing on Tuesday, they scored seven runs which feels like 20 given the lack of production from this group. Most notably, JaCoby Jones has started to come alive.

Before having his 2020 ended by a broken wrist, Jones was at the time the team’s most productive hitter. Despite being 29 years old, it’s still not clear whether or not Jones can actually be a productive player at the big league level. If Jones can start to come alive, it will go a long way to getting the offense of the Tigers on track, but could also give Jones a longer lead time to show the Tigers that he belongs in the majors.

Detroit Tigers (9-22) at Boston Red Sox (18-13)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Fenway Park
SB Nation Site: Over the Monster
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Spencer Turnbull (1-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. RHP Nathan Eovaldi (4-2, 3.63 ERA)

Game 32 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Turnbull 16 17.9 7.5 3.55 0.4
Eovaldi 34.2 22.4 4.9 2.13 1.3

Nathan Eovaldi’s peripherals suggest he’s actually been a lot better than what his ERA suggests. An ERA in the mid-threes is nothing to scoff at, but that 2.13 FIP is actually ranks third in all of baseball among qualified pitchers. Much of that FIP can be attributed to the fact that he has yet to allow a home run this season. His strikeout rate is slightly down from 2020 and his walk rate is slightly up, so is he now doing something different to limit the big flies? Time will tell.

The Tigers are 21st in the league in team home runs, which is bad, but not nearly as bad when you consider that they’re last in the league in wRC+ by a very wide margin. At 69 wRC+ (not nice), they lead the race to the bottom in offense against the Colorado Rockies, who are at 82 wRC+. On the flip side, the Red Sox are tied for first in baseball with their White counterparts in Chicago at 115 wRC+. This offense presents a challenge for even the best pitchers the league has to offer, and it will be no different for Spencer Turnbull who is still trying to find his rhythm in the rotation after his battle with COVID-19,

Turnbull has looked solid in his three starts so far this season. Against the Red Sox though, he’ll need to be on his A-game. You all know J.D. Martinez and what he’s capable of, but Alex Verdugo has so far used 2021 as his coming-out party. Verdugo has hammered the ball to a tune of a 147 wRC+, and while he’s no Mookie Betts, he’s turning into a pretty darn good major league outfielder. Rafael Devers and Xander Boegarts also continue to tear the cover off the ball and prove to be one of the better offensive left sides of the infield in the game. If Turnbull is to give the Tigers a chance to leave Boston with a series victory, he’s going to have to keep the middle of Boston’s order quiet for the most part.

Key Matchup: Miguel Cabrera vs. Father Time

Even as the offense slowly starts to get it together, Miguel Cabrera has been completely non-existent. After an awesome Opening Day home run in the snow, it has really been all down hill for him. Cabrera returned from the Injured List for the last week of April and has only three hits in the 10 games that he’s played in since then. Overall, he has put up a staggeringly bad 14 wRC+ and has been worth -0.7 fWAR. And as a fan, it’s incredibly depressing to watch one of the greatest players of all time struggle so badly at the back end of his career.

Physically, Cabrera looks great, but he’s just not hitting anymore. At 38 years old, the prospects of him getting back to a productive everyday player seem low. At this point, we just have to hope he can stay healthy and productive enough to rack up another 11 home runs and 128 hits to reach 500 homers and 3,000 hits for his career before his contract ends following the conclusion of the 2023 season. Damn, that was a depressing sentence to write.