Few things feel better than sweeping a series, and the Detroit Tigers did just that this week against the Baltimore Orioles, from whom they took three-straight games coming off a disappointing series loss to the Cleveland Indians. Dropping two of three from the Tribe put the Tigers a game and a half behind the Mistake on the Lake for second place in the American League Central Division, but the tides have turned since.
With the three-game sweep of the O’s combined, with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics on the part of the Tribe, the two teams are now tied for the second spot behind the division-leading Chicago White Sox — though Detroit has played four more games this season. The battle for No. 2 rages on this weekend and whoever emerges victorious will be in the AL Central passenger seat heading into the dog days of August. Game 1 kicks off with a pair of familiar pitchers we saw not too long ago.
Detroit Tigers (57-60) vs. Cleveland Indians (55-58)
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: LHP Tyler Alexander (2-1, 4.35 ERA) vs. RHP Zach Plesac (6-4, 4.84 ERA)
Game 118 Pitching Matchup
It seems like just a few days ago I wrote up previews for both Tyler Alexander and Zach Plesac — wait, I DID write previews for both of them recently. Well, starting with the former, Detroit’s lefthander had his best outing of 2021 against Cleveland last Saturday, spinning 5 1⁄3 innings of shutout ball allowing just four hits while walking none and striking out four on an efficient 62 pitches thrown to guide the good guys to a 2-1 win — their only win of the series. The 27-year-old hit a bit of a bump to end July but he appears to be back on track in his two August starts so far.
Last weekend’s gem also improved Alexander's numbers as a starter over his last six appearances, dropping his ERA to a more respectable 4.43 while his WHIP sits at a tidy 1.23. Though his traditional numbers do not jump out at you, the eye test suggests that he is getting the job done, albeit in a mediocre fashion.
Opposite the Tigers starter is Zach Plesac, who got hit hard last time out against the Tigers after taming them in his first two games of 2021. Despite sporting a 1.38 ERA with 10 strikeouts over his opening 13 innings against the Olde English D this season, Detroit’s offense tattooed him for five runs — four earned — on two hits, three walks and a home run in just four frames of work in his most recent game; the 26-year-old did manage to strike out six, however. The Tribe ended up winning anyway but Plesac showed that his recent regression has not been just a blip.
Key Matchup: Offense vs. Plesac
The Motor City Kitties put Cleveland’s starter on the ropes last time out and there is no reason why they cannot replicate that performance. Plesac has been struggling since mid-May to the tune of a 6.31 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP while allowing 12 home runs over the last 41 1⁄3 innings, and is once again ripe for the picking. And speaking of replicating performances, if Alexander can turn in another beauty like he did last time, the Tigers have a great chance of opening up the weekend with a win against one of their biggest rivals.