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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: Casey Mize on the mound for the home stretch

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Detroit looks to creep closer to the .500 mark this weekend in a three-game series against Kansas City.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There are only 10 more games remaining in the 2021 Major League Baseball regular season heading into this weekend’s three-game series with fellow American League Central Division foe the Kansas City Royals in Detroit. While the imminent end of the schedule brings a bit of sadness to teams outside of the playoff hunt, the culmination of this summer’s campaign is ending on a high note for the Motor City Kitties.

After a dreadful start to the season, the Olde English D really turned things around, bringing an exciting brand of baseball back to the D after a few grueling years of gut-wrenching Gardy-ball. Part of that rebound was due to the emergence of a pair of Detroit’s highly heralded pitching prospects.

On that note, the head of that class is slated to take the mound Friday night for the good guys while Kay-Cee sends a youngster of their own to the bump. Here is a look at how things line up for the opening game of the series.

Detroit Tigers (74-78) vs. Kansas City Royals (69-83)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Casey Mize (7-8, 3.64 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Hernández (6-2, 3.90 ERA)

Game 153 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Mize 143.1 19.0 7.0 4.79 1.2
Hernández 80.2 21.6 11.2 4.01 1.0

Casey Mize has faced the Royals five times this season, and the results have been all over the place. His first appearance against them on April 23 was a complete dud, surrendering six runs in 4 23 innings for his worst loss of the summer so far. The 24-year-old then followed that up with a pair of strong showings, allowing two runs in six innings and one run in 6 13 innings on May 12 and 23, respectively. The right-hander's fourth game on June 15 was a quality start, surrendering three runs in 6 23 innings, while his fifth was pretty rough, coughing up four runs in 4 23 innings on July 24.

Given that Detroit’s prized pitcher is operating on a decreased workload schedule as the season wanes, there is no reason to expect any more than three frames from the former top pick, which he has been limited to in the past three games. Mize has given up at least a run in every game against the Royals this year but maybe he can break that streak on Friday night.

Like Detroit’s starting hurler, Carlos Hernández is also a blossoming prospect in his second year with the big league team. His traditional numbers are solid, and while his ERA and FIP nearly agree his WHIP of 1.30 is a little bit on the high side likely owing to his elevated walk rate. Nonetheless, the 24-year old has been good for 1 fWAR this season in just 80 innings, which is not too shabby.

The international free agent signing out of Venezuela has faced the Tigers twice this season, throwing three innings of shutout ball in relief on June 16 before getting shelled as a starter on July 24 to the tune of five runs in just 2 23 innings. However, since that game, Hernández has started eight out of nine appearances notching a 2.75 ERA, 3.85 FIP and 1.11 WHIP over 52 13 innings, striking out 35 while allowing just four home runs. It is safe to say the guy on the mound Friday night is a bit different than the one seen a couple of months ago.

Key Matchup: Tigers bullpen vs. Royals

This is an important weekend series that should be treated like a marathon, not a sprint, and I am fully confident that AJ Hinch is cognizant of this. Because Mize is on a workload limit and his compadre Tarik Skubal, who is also being conserved, is slated to pitch tomorrow, the bullpen needs to work as efficiently as possible. If the Tigers are forced to burn five or six relievers, we could be in for a long weekend.