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Tigers vs. Royals preview: Casey Mize hunts for a series win

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After an offensive outburst on Monday, the Tigers look to their young starters to save the bullpen and win the series.

2021 Detroit Tigers Photo Day Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Tigers pitching staff is gassed. They certainly aren’t alone in this, as pitchers seem to be going down at an unusually high rate of late. Unfortunately, it is a problem that doesn’t have a whole lot of potential answers in the Tigers farm system right now. What would really help, is strong outings from their two prized young starters, Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, to help get the bullpen some rest while still taking this series with a least one win in the next two games.

Of the two, Mize is clearly the better bet to go deep in a game. Over his last eight starts, Mize has only failed to throw six innings once, and twice has pitched into the eighth inning in that span. He was knocked around by the Royals in Comerica Park on April 23rd, but that was the start that seemed to kick him into a higher gear, beginning this strong run of outings in May and June. On both May 12th in Detroit, and May 23rd in Kansas City—seriously, it feels like we’re always playing the Royals—Mize held them to two runs or less while going at least six frames.

So there is some growing familiarity here, but Mize has the better feeling coming into this one. His last two starts have been pedestrian efforts with three runs allowed both times, but Mize has kept traffic off the basepaths and saved his best stuff for the tight situations. The way he’s learned to pound the strikezone aggressively for quick outs over the past six weeks bodes well for his success tonight, as long as he can avoid those perhaps overly aggressive mistake pitches when he’s ahead in counts with runners on base.

Detroit Tigers (27-39) at Kansas City Royals (30-35)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation Site: Royals Review
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Casey Mize (3-4, 3.44 ERA) vs. LHP Mike Minor (5-3, 4.50 ERA)

Game 67 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Mize 70.2 4.78 20.8 7.7 1.4 0.5
Minor 74 4.12 26.6 7.9 1.46 1.1

As for Mize’s opponent, he’s a pretty familiar face. Mike Minor has been in the majors since 2010, pitched for the Royals in 2017 before a pair of reasonably successful seasons with the Texas Rangers and a 2020 season split between Texas and the Oakland A’s. The left-handed remains one of those durable, “pesky” left handers who seems to grade out as an average starting pitcher year after year.

The Royals have altered Minor’s pitch mix this season, finally cutting deeply into his fastball usage. His 38.3 percent mark is the lowest fastball percentage of his career. Instead, Minor is throwing his slider and curveball more, while maintaining a changeup rate of 20.6. The results so far have been the highest strikeout rate he’s posted since 2017. Minor gets a lot of fly balls, mostly of the routine variety, and so despite a pretty average walk rate, he’s posted a very solid 1.15 WHIP. Expect a lot of offspeed stuff against the Tigers right handers, with Minor using his fastball up in the zone for whiffs and weak contact in the air.

The Tigers have already faced Minor twice this season, and they’ve had success. Back on April 23rd at Comerica Park, they got to Minor for two runs in 5 23 innings, but they also struck out nine times in the contest. Better were their results in Kauffman Stadium back on May 21st, when they scored four in six innings, though they also struck out eight times in that one. Minor is going to punch some Tigers out, but there’s every reason to believe the Tigers will put up some runs against him as well.

Key Matchup: Lefty mashers, engage

The last time we saw Minor, Miguel Cabrera got to him for a solo shot in the second inning. Cabrera also his a grand slam in the seventh, but that came against veteran reliever Greg Holland. Eric Haase, Jeimer Candelario, and Robbie Grossman each drove the ball hard against Minor in that game as well. The addition of Haase, as well as Jake Rogers, who will presumably catch Mize in this one, gives the Tigers a little more punch against left handers, as does the resurgence of Jonathan Schoop. If Mize can toss another good one, expect the Tigers to put up enough runs to take a lead into the late innings. Whether their exhausted bullpen can hold a slim lead at this point, is anyone’s guess.