The Detroit Tigers emerged victorious from a nail-biter on Saturday night behind Tyler Alexander’s best outing of the season to even the weekend series with the Cleveland Indians in a 2-1 road victory. The win pulled the good guys within a game-and-a-half of the Guardians for second place in the American League Central Division and five wins away from the .500 mark.
Regardless of who wins the all-important rubber match on Sunday afternoon, the Tribe will remain in second place, but a Tigers victory would pull them within a half-game and give them a two-game lead in the win column. Today’s tangle should be a good one, as Detroit sends one of its more pleasant surprises to the hill while Cleveland’s starter has been a bit disappointing this season. Here is a look at how things shake out.
Detroit Tigers (54-59) vs. Cleveland Indians (53-55)
Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Progressive Field
SB Nation Site: Covering the Corner
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Wily Peralta (3-2, 3.47 ERA) vs. RHP Zach Plesac (6-4, 4.64 ERA)
Game 114 Pitching Matchup
Wily Peralta has been a godsend for the Tigers this year, filling in admirably for a team that has seen its pitching staff decimated by injuries. As I have mentioned in previous previews, the veteran right-hander had not started a game since 2017 before getting the opening nod in his second appearance this season, but one would suspect that based on his overall results so far. His ERA, while extremely respectable, is marred by three bad outings out of nine total starts — Porcello out the bad ones out and the 32-year-old has only surrendered a pair of earned runs over 31 1⁄3 innings, striking out 20 batters while walking 10.
In his last outing on Aug. 3, Peralta tossed 4 2⁄3 innings allowing a pair of runs — one earned — on six hits, two walks and a home run while striking out three on an inefficient 96 pitches to help his team beat the Boston Red Sox. His performance was a much-needed bounce back from two ugly appearances before in which he gave up a combined 11 runs on 11 hits, five walks and four home runs while striking out just four, plus a hit batter, over nine innings. Hopefully, he is trending back in the right direction because when he is on, he is a formidable force on the mound; when he is not, well, it is not a pretty sight.
For the Tribe, Zach Plesac will take the mound amidst a season that has been mediocre at best for the once highly-touted pitching prospect. After a 2020 campaign in which he put up a sparkling 2.28 ERA to go with a 3.39 FIP and near-impossible 0.80 WHIP over 55 1⁄3 innings, the 26-year-old has seen some regression as his ERA and FIP have ballooned while his WHIP is still a very respectable 1.15. He seems to be having some issues with the home run ball, having surrendered 16 already — three short of his career-high of 19 in 2019, which he reached in 115 2⁄3 innings.
The young right-hander has faced the Tigers twice this season — both in his opening two starts — and looked good in both. In the second game of the year, Plesac took the loss despite tossing six innings of two-run ball while walking two and striking out four; his next game was a gem, throwing seven scoreless frames allowing three hits and no walks while striking out six for the win. Since then, it has been a bit up-and-down for Cleveland’s hurler with more downs than ups — especially over the past month and a half. In his last outing, against the Toronto Blue Jay on Aug. 3, he was roasted for six runs on 10 hits and a pair of dingers over five innings for the loss, and since May 13, the third-year pitcher has posted a 5.36 ERA allowing 48 hits (though only nine walks) and 12 home runs against 21 strikeouts in 45 1⁄3 innings. Plesac appears to be ripe for the pickings on Sunday.
Key Matchup: Tigers offense vs. the home run ball
Detroit is only ranked 21st in the majors when it comes to total home runs, but it has a few guys with some pop on the roster who can put the ball over the fence when needed. Plesac’s weakness — among many — appears to be the long ball and the Tigers need to hit him where it hurts. It also helps that the Traffic Guardians’ starter is not much of a strikeout threat, as we know that the Tigers’ bats are basically a reverse wind farm this season. Still, a solid outing from Peralta and an offensive reawakening would surely earn the Olde English D both a victory and a series win.
And don’t call me Shirley.