The Detroit Tigers opened up their four-game road series against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night with a 4-2 win. Casey Mize showed improvement over his first performance of the season last weekend against the Chicago White Sox, ultimately winning the war against future Hall of Famer Zach Greinke, while Miguel Cabrera drew closer to the historic 3,000 hit mark with a trio of singles along with a run scored for the good guys.
The two teams will do it again on Friday night in game two of the Passover-Easter weekend series. The Tigers turn to one of their young up-and-coming arms to do battle while the Royals have a young veteran who is looking to bounce back from a rough 2022 campaign. Take a look below at how the two match up.
Detroit Tigers (3-4) vs. Kansas City Royals (2-4)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation Blog: Royals Review
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs. RHP Brad Keller (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Game 8 Pitching Matchup
Tarik Skubal struggled a bit in his first start of the season against Chicago, lasting just four innings on 79 pitches, throwing 50 of them for strikes while taking the loss. The 25-year-old southpaw gave up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and a walk while striking out three. He gave up a lot of hard contact and struggled to fool the Sox hitters, though he did manage to get his changeup going in the second inning. His defense did not help him much either, resulting in his decievingly-low FIP.
Last year, Detroit’s ninth-round pick in the 2018 MLB draft faced Kansas City four times, losing twice while winning one and taking a no-decision in the other. His lone victory came on June 16 at KC in which he tossed six innings of three-run ball on six hits and two walks while striking out seven — though he did give up a pair of dingers. In his outing at home on April 25, he lasted 2 2⁄3 innings in relief while surrendering a pair of runs on two hits, one of which was a homer; he also managed to strike out three batters while taking the loss.
Skubal’s other loss came on July 25 when he gave up five runs in five innings, giving up five hits (three home runs) while striking out four in what was probably his worst outing against the Royals. His best game, however, was the no-decision on September 25 in which he threw four innings of scoreless, one-hit ball, though he only struck out a single batter.
Brad Keller is now in his fifth season with the Kansas City Royals after being plucked out of high school by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 8th round of the 2013 MLB draft. After being selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2017 Rule 5 draft, he was immediately traded to the Royals for a player to be named or cash. KC wasted little time slotting him into its staff as he threw 140 1⁄3 innings in 2018, starting 20 of 41 appearances to the tune of a 3.08 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 3.55 FIP.
Keller saw some regression the following year but put up solid numbers during the 2020 COVID season in limited action. Last year, however, he struggled to find his footing, producing a 5.39 ERA with a 1.66 WHIP and 4.72 FIP in 133 2⁄3 innings pitched, starting all 26 appearances. While he did not get too deep into the first game of the 2022 campaign, he flashed some of the potential seen in seasons prior and helped his team earn the W.
Kansas City’s starter gets by on a four-pitch arsenal headlined by his slider (86.1 mph), which he utilized 34.8% of the time in 2021, followed by a four-seam fastball (94.2 mph) and a sinker (93.7 mph) that was used 29.8% and 29.2%, respectively, along with a changeup (90 mph) used sparingly at 6.1%, according to Baseball Savant. He currently excels at chase rate, xERA and xwOBA, landing in the 94th percentile for the former and 86th percentile in the two latter, and is above average in nine of the 11 categories of the 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings.
Key Matchup: Tigers hitters vs Keller
With Skubal on the mound, the Motor City Kitties are likely going to need to score a few runs to get the boys in the Olde English D over the hump. Detroit is currently tied for 19th in batting average among major league teams with a .223 mark, while ranking 14th in on-base percentage (.304), 23rd in slugging percentage (.344) and 9th in strikeouts (64), which does not bode terribly well against a swing-and-miss pitcher like Keller. If the Tigers cannot solve him early, the game could seem longer than a traditional Passover seder.