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Tigers at Twins preview: Tigers have to put a bad loss behind them

The team needs to clean up their defense, but they can’t dwell on a last night’s ninth inning debacle either.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Tuesday night’s series opener between the Tigers and Twins ended with a ghastly bottom of the ninth inning that really played all the hits. Closer walks the first two batters. Screaming line drive freezes an outfielder, who misplays the ball. Then the opposing team handed the Tigers a gift by holding the runner from second at third base, creating a rundown opportunity that was then blown up as the catcher threw the ball away rather than charging the runner trapped between second and third. Let’s not talk about that one again.

Clearly, the Tigers need to get their heads right defensively. No one expects this to be a good defensive club, but average is within their abilities and so far they’ve simply made too many mistakes. The result on Tuesday was another close game that they kicked away. There have been a few of those already and this isn’t a team that can afford to waste many opportunities if they’re going to be in the playoff hunt in any meaningful way this summer. However, the season has barely begun, and as frustrating as the loss was, they’ve got to shake it off and come in Wednesday night in the right headspace to win.

Fortunately, we’ve already gotten a look at an AJ Hinch managed team that fell on its face out of the gate last season. It didn’t last. The coaches were able to make some adjustments, get their message across, shuffle personnel a bit, and turn the season around completely by late May. With more talent at their disposal this season, it shouldn’t take as long to get this team sorted out. Let’s hope they start tonight.

Detroit Tigers (6-10) at Minnesota Twins (9-8)

Time/Place: 7:40 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA)

Game 17 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher (2021 stats) IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pitcher (2021 stats) IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pineda 109.1 4.21 19.2 4.6 1.4 1.4
Ryan 26.2 3.43 30 5 1.35 0.6

Michael Pineda’s debut in a Tigers uniform went very well last Thursday. He blanked the Yankees for five innings with his usual mix of precision and weak contact allowed. The Twins offense isn’t quite as scary as the Yankees, but in Target Field, they’re arguably a more dangerous foe. Hopefully, Pineda can keep them in the park tonight. If he does, the Twins will have trouble putting together a big inning.

The Twins will send right-hander Joe Ryan to the mound to oppose Pineda. Ryan features a really tricky fastball backed with a solid slider/changeup combination, and has the command to use them all to best effect. It’s certainly not an overpowering arsenal, but he’s been pretty effective early in his major league career.

Ryan’s fastball is particularly surprising because it’s a low spin, low velocity (91-92 mph) sinking fourseamer thrown from a low release point. That unique mix, with a flat plane to the top of the zone, draws plenty of whiffs and routine fly balls, while early on the sweeping slider has been well located and drawing even more whiffs, even down in the strike zone.

You can get a good look at him here.

The Tigers faced Ryan late last September, and blew him up for six runs, but Niko Goodrum hit two homers in that contest. Jonathan Schoop also went yard, and Ryan’s fastball heavy approach is not a bad matchup for Schoop, nor Javier Báez. However, in the early going, lefties have definitely had the relative advantage in terms of avoiding strikeouts, drawing walks, and hitting for power. Hopefully guys like Austin Meadows, and particularly Robbie Grossman and Jeimer Candelario, who are struggling, can get loose a bit in this one. Against a fairly potent offense, with a contact pitcher rather than a strikeout artist on the mound, the Tigers are going to need to get going offensively a lot earlier than they have in most games this season.