The Detroit Tigers have bounced back rather well since being swept at home by the Los Angeles Angels over a week ago, taking a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays last weekend and splitting a two-game mid-weeker with the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, the Motor City Kitties return home to the friendly confines of Comerica Park to host those same Blue Jays in another three-game set starting Friday night.
The good guys will have an uphill battle in the opening matchup, as they send a struggling rookie hurler to the mound still looking to find his footing in the big leagues. Opposite of him is yet another solid pitcher for the bluebirds who has had a fine season this summer. Here is a look at how the two stack up against each other.
Detroit Tigers (61-67) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (66-60)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Bluebird Banter
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Matt Manning (3-5, 5.91 ERA) vs. LHP Steven Matz (10-7, 3.94 ERA)
Game 129 Pitching Matchup
Former first-round draft pick Matt Manning has had a rough go at it in his rookie season with only rare flashes of promise. The 23-year-old’s traditional numbers are anything but pretty (especially his 1.56 WHIP) but his FIP happens to be over a full run lower than his ERA, which suggests he might be getting a bit unlucky — though when you allow that many baserunners, you are making your own bad luck. Add to that his poor K:BB ratio and you have the recipe for mediocrity.
Looking over the 11 games he’s thrown in 2021, it is hard to point to any stretch of brilliance by the greenhorn hurler, but if you squint hard enough you would probably pick his July 21 outing against the Texas Rangers in which he threw six innings of two-run (one earned) ball, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out a season-high (twice matched since) four strikeouts for the win.
Since then, things have not gone too well. In the five successive games, the right-hander put up a 6.08 ERA along with a 1.66 WHIP over 25 1⁄3 innings while surrendering four of the seven dingers he has allowed this summer. Despite all of the bad news, it is still way too early to give up on Manning, but he has been tough to watch.
For the Blue Jays, Steven Matz is scheduled to toe the rubber tonight. The former New York Met took the trip across Niagra Falls to Toronto after six up-and-down seasons in Queens and has rebounded well from a disastrous 2020 campaign. The 30-year-old’s traditional numbers have been strong as well as his peripherals, providing another ample arm in an already impressive starting rotation for Toronto.
Matz paints the plate with a four-pitch palette headlined by a 95 mph sinker he uses a hair over half the time, followed by an 85 mph changeup (23 percent usage), a 78 mph curveball (16 percent) and an 89 mph slider (10 percent), according to Baseball Savant. Over the past six seasons, his sinker has seen a mostly steady decline in usage while his changeup has almost reciprocally trended upwards, ultimately replacing the curve as his top secondary pitch. However, what’s most interesting about his trends is that despite the poor results he got last season, his proclivities are mostly the same save for a few minor shifts. Here is how the left-hander rates in comparison to his peers.
Key Matchup: Matt Manning vs. himself
Like I said earlier, it is way too early to throw in the towel on Detroit’s former top prospect but he is not getting the job done the way his skill set suggests he should. With a sky-high WHIP and an expected batting average in the bottom 3rd percentile — plus an anemic strikeout rate — Manning needs to figure out what works and what does not before the season’s end. Today would a great day to get on that track.