After dropping two straight series at home to start the season, the Tigers embark on their first road trip of the year to take on the Kansas City Royals. Thursday night marks the start of a four game series where Detroit will meet a divisional rival that also finds itself with more losses than wins so far. With an exceptional rookie and some intriguing veterans, Kansas City is similar to Detroit in that they’re also looking to get back to winning ways in 2022.
Many of the usual suspects for the Royals return from years past in Salvador Perez, Whit Merrifield, and Adalberto Mondesi. Perez had an amazing season at the plate last season with an American League leading 48 home runs and played in 161 games, which is astounding for a catcher — yeah he played DH some too. Merrifield and Mondesi were both worth 91 wRC+, which is a down year for Merrifield and a pretty solid year for Mondesi. Not to worry though, Merrifield still has a career .919 OPS against the Tigers in his career, so good ole’ Whit will most likely figure out away to be impactful against the Detroit pitchers.
Despite the loss, the Tigers finally put together a good performance on the offensive side, scoring seven runs on Wednesday against Boston. Top prospect Spencer Torkelson went 2-4 and hit his first Major League home run, a majestic shot to left field over the Comerica Park bullpen. The Tigers will look to build on their strong day at the plate in Kansas City, but will face a challenge on the mound in the form of former Cy Yung award winner Zack Greinke.
Detroit Tigers (2-4) vs. Kansas City Royals (2-3)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation Blog: Royals Review
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Casey Mize (0-1, 7.20 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (0-0, 1.59 ERA)
Game 7 Pitching Matchup
Let me just throw this out there: Zack Greinke is coming off the worst full season of his career, but do not take Zack Greinke lightly. When you look into his eyes, you know what you see? Absolutely nothing. Zack Greinke is a cold-blooded killer on the mound who will destroy you with 69 MPH curve balls and an 89 MPH fastball that looks like it’s actually a wiffle ball. Greinke started his career in 2004 as a 20-year-old in Kansas City, won a Cy Young in 2009 with the team, and then pitched for Milwaukee, both Los Angeles teams, Arizona, and then several years in Houston before returning to the Royals as a 38-year-old.
On the other side of the age spectrum, the Royals have the top overall prospect in baseball in Bobby Witt Jr. manning third base. Barely old enough to drink, Witt was the second overall pick in 2019 MLB draft, the same draft that produced Tigers phenom prospect Riley Greene. He’s off to a tough start so far with only two hits and one walk in 22 plate appearances, but in terms of potential, this guy has superstar written all over him. It’s all going to click for Bobby Witt Jr. eventually, so while he isn’t as polished at the plate as Spencer Torkelson just yet, do not be surprised if you see a guy hitting .100 start torching Detroit this weekend.
Casey Mize will make his second start of the season after what was a forgettable 2022 debut. In five innings against the White Sox, Mize allowed four runs in five innings with only two strikeouts. Despite not walking a batter, he struggled hitting his spots which led to slugging percentages of .714 and .750 against his four-seam fastball and slider. For Mize it’s all about command of his fastball, slider, and splitter. He didn’t have command of any last Saturday, and if that’s the case on Thursday, he could be in for another rough outing. However the Royals, while improved over last year, are not the White Sox. Mize should have an easier time navigating their lineup compared to the first two opponents on the young season.
Key to the game
Typically when you see a soft-tossing right handed pitcher, you think of the Bugs Bunny congo line of hitters. That isn’t the case with Zack Greinke. Everything he throws may be slow, but everything he slows will dance all over the place and drive hitters crazy if he’s dialed in. Greinke has five pitches that he will throw quite a bit in his four-seam fastball, curveball, slider, change-up, and sinker, and they all play off each other. Since he lost the sauce on his fastball, his change-up has proved his best pitch, but he still has the ability to get you out with whatever he throws due to how enticing it will look leaving his hand.
For the Tigers to get a win, patience will be the name of the game. So far, that hasn’t been a strong suit of this offense. So far, the most patient hitters for the Tigers have been Austin Meadows and Spencer Torkelson. The rest of the lineup would be wise to follow their leads against Greinke. Spit on the change-up, and don’t miss the fastballs that cut the plate. Greinke had a tough go of it last season and is now a sub-strikeout-per-inning guy. If the Tigers don’t play into his hands, they should be able to scratch some runs across the board.