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Tigers vs. Twins Preview: Ureña tries to even the weekend series

The series opener did not go well and Detroit is hoping for a little bit of Saturday afternoon magic.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a brutal three weeks of baseball for the Detroit Tigers since they swept the Houston Astros on the road way back on April 12-14. Subsequently, the Motor City Kitties have only won three of its last 21 games for a .142 winning percentage over that stretch after last night’s loss to the Minnesota Twins. Woof.

There was one bright spot yesterday, however, and that was Miguel Cabrera surpassing Babe Ruth on the all-time hit list. While the milestone was a nice touch, a win would be much nicer. With that in mind, both teams today are sending one of their best starting pitchers to the mound, which should be a fun pitcher’s duel if all works out well.

Detroit Tigers (9-24) vs. Minnesota Twins (12-19)

Time/Place: 4:10 pm, Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP José Ureña (1-4, 3.53 ERA) vs. RHP José Berríos (3-2, 3.58 ERA)

Game 34 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Ureña 35.2 18.9 10.9 3.24 0.8
Berríos 32.2 33.1 7.1 2.34 1.1

José Ureña has been the most effective starter in the Tigers’ rotation not named Matthew Boyd — who is on tap for tomorrow’s tilt. His win-loss numbers mean absolutely nothing on a team that has a historically terrible offense, but things are a bit weird when it comes to some of his peripherals such as his low-ish strikeout and high walk percentages.

However, his high groundball rate of 59.6 percent along with an impressive 4.8 percent home run-to-fly ball ratio has been the winning formula, which is confirmed by his solid FIP. It all adds up to a successful free agent signing for Al Avila when it comes to this 29-year-old right-hander.

Taking the mound for the Twins is José Berríos, a six-year veteran who has spent his entire major league career with Minnesota. The 26-year-old from Puerto Rico has upped his game in 2021, posting a career-high 11.75 strikeouts per nine innings and a near career-low 2.48 walks per nine innings, along with a tidy 9.1 percent home run-to-fly ball ratio. The result has been an FIP more than a run lower than his ERA and three wins in six games started.

The right-hander gets it done with a four-pitch arsenal that features a four-seam fastball (94.3 mph) and a curveball (84.2 mph) that get the most usage at 31.3 and 31.1 percent, respectively, while he also leans on his sinker (94.0 mph) 25.1 percent and his changeup (86.4 mph) 12.3 percent of the time. He pounds the zone with his two fastballs while attacking the bottom of the zone and below with his other two offerings, inducing a lot of whiffs to help maintain his superlative strikeout rate — which he ranks in the 88th percentile according to Baseball Savant.

Key Matchup: The starting pitchers

If the Tigers have any chance in today’s game they need their starter to keep the Twins off the scoreboard for as long as possible. It is highly doubtful that Detroit will muster much off of Berríos and it honestly would not be terribly surprising if the team crosses the 20 strikeout threshold on Saturday. But if Ureña can continue to work his wizardry and the game goes into the late innings as a low-scoring pitchers duel, the boys in the Olde English D may be able to steal this one with a little bit of luck.