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Tigers at Indians Preview: The battle for second place in the AL Central

Coming off a series win against the Red Sox the Tigers have a chance to gain some ground in their division.

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Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers appear to be back on a roll after a devastating three-game sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals a couple of weeks ago, having taken series against the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox while splitting a four-gamer with the Baltimore Orioles since. As the team continues to collect the victories, it slowly gets closer and closer to the all-important .500 mark. This weekend, the Motor City Kitties intend to continue its winning ways against possibly its most heated American League Central Division rivals, the Cleveland Indians.

Despite being a game ahead in the win column, the boys in the Olde English D remain four games back when it comes to losses, adding up to a 1.5 game difference heading into the weekend. The winner of this series will stake a claim to second place in the standings behind the Chicago White Sox who are currently running away with the division crown. Ahead of tonight’s tangle on Lake Erie, here is a look at the pitching matchup.

Detroit Tigers (53-58) vs. Cleveland Indians (52-54)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m. EDT, Progressive Field
SB Nation Site: Covering the Corner
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Matt Manning (2-4, 5.59 ERA) vs. RHP Cal Quantrill (2-2, 3.40 ERA)

Game 112 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Manning 38.2 11..6 7.6 4.97 0.3
Quantrill 84.2 16.8 8.3 4.26 0.8

Matt Manning’s jump from the minors to the majors has been fraught with growing pains over the first eight big league starts of his career. In my previous preview of the 23-year-old hurler, I mentioned that he has put together a few solid performances while also taking a beating at times as well, and while he was trending in the right direction for a few games things had come undone for him in start No. 7. Unfortunately, his eighth trip to the mound did not show much improvement as he took a loss against the Baltimore Orioles on July 31 in which he surrendered five runs — two earned — on seven hits, two walks and a home run while striking out three in 5 23 innings; he threw a season-high 93 pitches in the process.

The talented right-hander has accumulated enough of a sample size to qualify for Baseball Savant’s 2021 MLB Percentile Rankings and sweet baby cheesus it does not look good. I could waste a bunch of words trying to describe the horrors but I will let you see for yourself below. Suffice to say, there is plenty of headroom left for Manning’s improvement.

Baseball Savant

Taking the bump for the opposing team is Cal Quantrill, a former first-round pick out of Stanford by the San Diego Padres in the 2016 draft. Now in his third year and second team, the 27-year-old spent his first season predominately as a starter, but since has been used in something of a utility role by his former team as well as the Tribe. This season, he pitched out of the bullpen for the first two months before getting his first start on May 31 against the Chicago White Sox, earning a win in the doubleheader-shortened outing.

Since then, the right-hander has started all of his appearances except for one, putting up a mediocre 4.14 ERA over 54 13 innings pitched, allowing 52 hits, 19 walks and six home runs while striking out 36 over that stretch, notching a pair of wins against a loss. He appears to be getting stronger and more efficient as the season wears on, having allowed just a single run in his last four games and logging six innings in the last three. His most recent start against the ChiSox resulted in a 2-1 loss for his team, but Quantrill had his best outing of the season, allowing a single unearned run over six frames on just three hits while walking four and striking out six for the no-decision. Hopefully, the Tigers can derail him off his current path on Friday night.

Key Matchup: Manning vs. Cleveland’s offense

Manning has stumbled a bit over his past couple of games and it is imperative that he get himself back on track against the Traffic Guardians. The opposing offense is not exactly a formidable one, currently ranked 13th in home runs, 26th in batting average and 29th in on-base percentage among its major league peers; they also are a low-strikeout squad, currently tied at seventh for the fewest in the majors. This batting profile on the surface appears to benefit the Tigers hurler, who is not striking out a lot of batters at the moment anyway and could use an outing against a team like Cleveland that does not get on base much.