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Toronto at Detroit Preview: Tigers try to take series using the opener strategy

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José Ureña will open up the game followed by Tyler Alexander.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers got off to a good start against the Toronto Blue Jays last night to kick off the weekend’s three-game home series. The Olde English D scored a surprising 2-1 win behind the best effort of young Matt Manning’s major league career and an inside-the-park home run by Victor Reyes. It is getting hard to shake off the notion that the Tigers have the Blue Jays’ number, especially when the odds are stacked against them.

Today, the two teams meet again in the Motor City for Game 2 of the series. The home squad is scheduled to employ the opener strategy and rely on the bullpen to get them through the game while the visitors send yet another impressive pitcher to the mound to do battle. Here is a look at how the matchup should unfold.

Detroit Tigers (62-67) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (66-61)

Time/Place: 6:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Bluebird Banter
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP José Ureña (2-8, 6.19 ERA) vs. RHP Alek Manoah (5-2, 3.18 ERA)

Game 130 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Ureña 80.0 14.1 10.1 5.36 0.2
Manoah 68.0 27.4 8.8 4.05 0.8

José Ureña on paper has not had a very good season, putting up bloated traditional stats while his peripherals have been pretty thin. Unfortunately, a rash of injuries to the pitching staff necessitated his continued usage, and to give him credit, he has worked through it all and chewed up much-needed innings for the Tigers. But the fact remains that the 29-year-old just is not giving his team a very good chance to win when he is on the mound.

The good news is that Detroit’s coaching staff is a bit savvier than in years past and is not afraid to make adjustments on the fly. The right-hander’s last outing against the Minnesota Twins was among his best this season, limited to just three shutout innings in which he surrendered a pair of hits while striking out two over 42 pitches to help the good guys seize a 1-0 win. AJ Hinch must have liked what he saw because he plans to do something similar today — roll out Ureña for two or three innings then hand the ball over to left-hander Tyler Alexander. It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ‘em.

Meanwhile, Toronto sends yet another solid hurler to the mound to try and tame the Tigers. (Is it just me, or is this team packed to the gills with good starting pitching?) Rookie right-hander Alek Manoah gets the call for the 14th start of his nascent major league career. So far, the former first-rounder has impressed, demonstrating not just competence but consistency as well over his first 68 major league innings. Though he stumbled a bit two games ago, the 23-year-old got back on track last time out throwing six innings of one-run ball. He does have a bit of a tendency to hit batters, striking two in that game and eight overall this season.

Manoah gets by on a mix of four pitches lead off by his 94 mph four-seam fastball (36 percent usage), 93 mph sinker (28 percent), 81 mph slider (27 percent) and 87 mph changeup (eight percent), according to Baseball Savant. Individually, these particular pitches do not stand out, but the Gestalt gives some very good results. He rates highly among his peers in many important categories, as you can see in the graphic below.

Baseball Savant

Key Matchup: Tigers offense vs. the Greenhorn

The Tigers are going to need to score some runs in this one, and even though the Jays’ rookie has been cruising this season he still has imperfections that can be exploited. Given his penchant for hitting batters, he can presumably get a bit wild at times, plus his changeup is very hittable with a run value score of four (pitchers want negative numbers, not positive ones). Patience will likely be the key at the plate for the Tigers, and if the opener strategy succeeds, the Motor City Kitties can clinch the series this evening.