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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: Detroit hopes to bounce back behind Skubal

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The Tigers lost a tough one on Friday night but have a chance to even the series on Saturday.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers’ final homestand of the 2021 season got off to a rough start on Friday night when the visiting Kansas City Royals battled the home team to a 3-1 defeat to open the three-game weekend series. The pitching was strong on both sides but the Motor City Kitties just could not make it happen with the bats and on the basepaths.

Saturday offers a chance to even the series for the Olde English D behind another premier prospect pitcher while the Royals send a greenhorn fresh off the farm to try and steal the road set. Here is a look at what is lined up for tonight’s action.

Detroit Tigers (74-79) vs. Kansas City Royals (70-83)

Time/Place: 6:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (8-12, 4.25 ERA) vs. RHP Jon Heasley (7-3 3.33 ERA in AA)

Game 154 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Skubal 142.0 26.8 7.6 4.91 1.0
Heasley (AA) 105.1 27.7 7.9 4.59 -

Much like Casey Mize yesterday, Tarik Skubal will be on a workload limit as his season winds down, ostensibly set for a three-inning stint before giving way to the bullpen. Since his pitch cap was put into place, he has started three games throwing a trio of frames in each, putting up a 4.00 ERA, 3.72 FIP and a tidy 1.00 WHIP, striking out 12 to just one walk. The best of the three came on Sept. 12 against the Tampa Bay Rays in which he gave up a hit and a walk while striking out six over three shutout innings.

Jon Heasley will take the bump for the Monarchs for just his second career major league appearance after leapfrogging Triple-A straight into the show. The former 13th round pick out of Oklahoma State’s first outing was also a start back on Sept. 17 against the Seattle Mariners in which he lasted just four innings, surrendering four runs on six hits including a pair of dingers while walking none and striking out two for the loss. It is hard to extrapolate how well he fits into the big leagues based on those four frames but the results are not that surprising given the jump he made.

Fortunately, there was enough of a sample of the 24-year-old’s repertoire that we have an idea of what he has to offer. According to Baseball Savant, the right-hander has a 93.5 mph four-seam fastball that he uses primarily, with a secondary selection consisting of a 79.6 mph curveball, 85.5 mph changeup and a scarcely-used 93.5 mph sinker. He leaned on the four-seamer 48 percent of the time, while the curve and change was utilized almost identically throwing them 17 and 16 times (22.7 and 21.3 percent), respectively, against Seattle.

Key Matchup: Offense vs. Heasley

The bats looked weak on Friday for Miguel Cabrera Night of all games and that is just not going to get the job done this weekend. On the mound for KC is a fresh pitcher that is ripe for the pickings who appears to have gotten a late-season call-up a little bit before he is ready. While the Tigers’ batting order is not one that necessarily strikes fear in the heart of its opponents, it does feature plenty of professional hitters who should know how to handle the youngster.