A week ago, things were looking pretty positive for the Detroit Tigers coming off a three-game series sweep over the Baltimore Orioles and heading into a huge home set against the Cleveland Indians. Since then, the good guys have only won a single game in six tries, including a midweek home sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels. The recent skid was punctuated on Thursday afternoon with a huge collapse after the Tigers staked an early seven-run lead en route to a 13-10 loss.
The Motor City Kitties now make their way north of the border to face the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend. The opening game features a familiar face who has mostly excelled since leaving Detroit while the Tigers send one of their converted farmhands to the mound to try and fend off the bluebirds. Here is a preview of tonight’s tangle.
Detroit Tigers (58-65) at Toronto Blue Jays (63-56)
Time/Place: 7:07 p.m., Rogers Centre
SB Nation site: Bluebird Banter
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tyler Alexander (2-2, 4.57 ERA) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (9-5, 2.88 ERA)
Game 124 Pitching Matchup
Tyler Alexander toes the rubber once again for the Tigers after struggling in his most recent outing against the Guardians. He gave up four runs on six hits and no walks while striking out four and allowing a home run over five frames for his second loss of the season. His performance was a stark contrast to the one immediately prior against the same team in which he shut out the Tribe over 5 1⁄3 innings, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out four for his second win of the 2021 campaign. Which pitcher will show up today against the Jays?
Speaking of Toronto, former Tiger Robbie Ray takes the hill for the opposition on Friday. The 29-year-old is having his best season since 2017, in which he earned an All-Star nod as well as finishing seventh in the Cy Young vote. While his strikeouts are down just a tick from his peak, he still carries a formidable K percentage along with impressive traditional numbers in his eighth year of major league play.
The veteran lefthander packs a punch with a four-pitch arsenal headlined by a 95 mph four-seamer he uses almost 60 percent of the time, followed by an 89 mph slider that gets used 28 percent, an 83 mph curveball that sees eight percent usage, and an 88 mph changeup at a rare five percent, per Baseball Savant; his chart also includes six sinkers thrown in 2021 but these are likely outliers. Add it all together and you have a pitcher that stands above his MLB peers in several categories.
Key Matchup: Tigers offense vs. Robbie Ray
This is not a matchup that favors Detroit, simply put. Though, as mentioned above, his K numbers have tapered a little over the years, Ray is still sending over a batter per inning back to the dugout on strikes and is sufficiently stingy with his walks. Chances are Alexander is going to cough up a few runs — that’s just who he is — so the bats need to find a way to get going. Hopefully, the right-handers in the lineup (I am looking at you Miguel Cabrera) can put a hurting on Jays’ start early and give the team a chance to start the weekend on a high note.