The Detroit Tigers finally got back on the winning track yesterday with a victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, behind a commendable performance by the bullpen. The road win gives the team a chance to split the four-game series after dropping the first two on Thursday and Friday.
Today marks game No. 150 on the schedule, which means only a dozen more remain before we pack it up for the winter. At this point, the Rays have all but clinched the American League East Division — currently holding a 7.5 game lead over the Boston Red Sox — and are looking for a bit of cushion while the Tigers are simply playing for pride. Here is a look at the matchup on the mound for Sunday’s series finale.
Detroit Tigers (71-78) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (92-57)
Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Tropicana Field
SB Nation site: DRays Bay
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Wily Peralta (3-3, 3.32 ERA) vs. LHP Shane McClanahan (9-5, 3.59 ERA)
Game 150 Pitching Matchup
Wily Peralta was one of Al Avila’s signature bargain bin signings ahead of the 2021 campaign and the roll of the dice on the 32-year-old has paid off for the Tigers. His numbers are not beautiful but the nine-year major league veteran has embraced his role as an innings-eater for an injury-deprived pitching staff admirably. With the exception of his debut appearance, the right-hander has served as a starter all summer stretching over 15 starts, and while he has seen his ups and downs, he goes out and gives it his best every time.
The Dominican's last three starts in September have been solid, notching a 1.93 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and a 3.94 FIP over that stretch, helping the Tigers win two of those three games. Peralta has not faced the Rays this year; in fact, the last time he faced Tampa Bay was on May 2, 2019, with the Kansas City Royals in which he pitched an inning of relief, surrendering a pair of runs on a walk and a hit (which happened to be a home run). It has been a while but Peralta is having a much better season in 2021 so it might be safe to say he will be better prepared this time around.
On the mound opposite him stands Shane McClanahan, a young pitcher who has had a fine rookie season so far. The former 31st overall pick has put up impressive traditional and peripheral stats over his 110-plus innings of work, maintaining an above-average strikeout rate while sitting about average walk-wise. His 1.30 WHIP is a bit on the elevated side but his 3.23 FIP is lower than his ERA, suggesting that he is making his own luck thanks to fairly low home run numbers and that solid K rate.
The 24-year-old gets by on a traditional four-pitch arsenal headlined by a blazing 96 mph four-seam fastball he uses 41 percent of the time, followed up with an 89 mph slider (35 percent), 83 mph curveball (16 percent) and 89 mph changeup (eight percent), according to Baseball Savant. He excels among his peers in fastball velocity (89th percentile), whiff percentage (86th percentile) and chase rate (80th percentile), while lagging far behind in average and maximum exit velocity (3rd percentile) as well as hard-hit percentage (7th percentile). McClanahan is a tough guy to make contact off of, but when one does, it is not uncommon for the hitter to get a good piece of the ball.
Key Matchup: Wily Peralta vs. innings
This series has been a brutal one for the Tigers bullpen, having carried a bulk of the weight in Tampa as AJ Hinch tries to taper his young guns’ workloads. What Detroit really needs today out of its innings-eater is exactly that — a good five or six innings of solid pitching before giving way to the pen is exactly what the doctor ordered. And if the offense can generate some static against Tampa’s rookie, the Motor City Kitties could come away with a series split.