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Tigers vs. Athletics doubleheader preview: A chance to turn two

Surely the Tigers will win at least one of these, yes?

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, the Tigers have two chances to win today. Surely this is the day they snap the losing streak. The frustration was obvious on Monday night as a whole series of bad calls from home plate umpire Nick Mahrley sent the club gnashing its teeth. Javier Báez was called out, argued and got tossed, followed closely by AJ Hinch. Often these things are played up to fire up a struggling team in need of some life, but the way things have been going, no acting was required.

After the game, Hinch was asked about Báez’s hot mic moment, and to paraphrase said that his shortstop hadn’t said anything you wouldn’t say in front of your mother. Audio made it clear that some mothers are built different—frankly my Mom wouldn’t have been phased a bit, for example—though Báez said nothing uncommon and it was all a bit of a farce for anyone to get worked up about considering how many players curse on mic after a strikeout. Sadly, this was arguably the most interesting thing that happened in another lifeless performance by the offense.

So, the grind of the compressed schedule continues, as the Tigers and A’s lock up for a doubleheader before the five-game set concludes with single games on Wednesday and Thursday. The only way the Tigers are going to find the energy to break out of this funk is by putting together some wins.

Detroit Tigers (8-20) at Oakland Athletics (11-18)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m. EDT, Comerica Park

SB Nation Site: Athletics Nation

Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.tv, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (1-2, 3.71 ERA) vs. RHP Frankie Montas (2-2, 3.44 ERA)

Game 29 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Skubal 26.2 2.22 26.1 2.7 0.68 0.9
Montas 36.2 3.30 25.9 6.3 0.98 0.7

The Tigers have the right guy on the mound in Game 1, but it’s a tough pitching matchup. Tarik Skubal is off to a really good start to the season. He’s learned to be less predictable, mixing in his sinker more and his fourseamer less, and stealing more strike ones with his revamped sweeping slider. We’re watching the thrower evolve into a big time pitcher unafraid to use any pitch in any count, and it’s been fun to watch despite the team’s overall struggles. The A’s will have their hands full as they welcome in the Tigers to Comerica Park.

Yeah that’s right, the A’s are the home team in this one, with the Tigers taking over as the home team for Game 2. The Oakland Coliseum never looked so good.

The Tigers opponent, right-hander Frankie Montas, was a popular trade target this offseason as the A’s sold off their talented veterans. However, no one was willing to pay the price for Montas just yet, and Billy Beane will be looking for the right buyer this summer. Montas has always had talent, but only in the last year was he finally consistently healthy. His excellent 2021 campaign saw him clear 100 major league innings for the first time, putting up 187 innings of work with a 3.37 ERA and 3.37 FIP.

The right-hander comfortably sits in the mid-90’s with both fourseamer and sinker, and he’ll use the two pretty interchangeably. Right-handers will see heavy doses of a nasty hard slider in the upper-80’s, while Montas’ focuses a tough splitter on the lefties in opposing lineups. He’s unafraid to use either secondary offering to anyone, in any count, and he has the command to make it all work as well. Montas throws a lot of strikes, draws a lot of whiffs, and will be in attack mode all afternoon.

This is a really good pitcher, and he and Skubal should make for a fun duel. Initially, manager A.J. Hinch had announced that Willi Castro would play center field in this one. That didn’t go over all that well considered Castro has never played the position before. Apparently they’ve reconsidered, and Castro will be in left for Game 1 instead. Somehow I doubt our Twitter snark had anything to do with it, but hey, who knows at this point...

Will the Tigers hit? Stay tuned! Or more likely, just check in during your workday and don’t let this get you down.

Detroit Tigers (8-20) at Oakland Athletics (11-18)

Time/Place: TBD, Comerica Park

SB Nation Site: Athletics Nation

Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.tv, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Alex Faedo (0-0, 3.60 ERA) vs. TBD

Right-hander Alex Faedo had to wait a long time for his major league debut. After elbow issues and finally Tommy John surgery saw him miss all of 2020 and 2021, the Tigers first rounder from the 2017 amateur draft finally fulfilled the first stage of his major league dreams, debuting with a solid enough outing last Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Faedo surrendered two runs over five innings, including a Roberto Perez solo shot. He only recorded one strikeout and allowed one walk. Overall, his command wasn’t particularly good, but he threw strikes and was able to escape a few jams along the way with a pair of double plays. If his command is sharper in this one he should be fine against a mediocre offense, but he’ll need his fastball-changeup combination to draw more whiffs as well. Faedo’s fastball has always been home run prone, and with his velocity showing no post-TJ bump yet, he needs to keep the bases clean lest a single long ball blow up his outing.

Faedo still has just 20 23 innings pitched in his return, so it’s unrealistic to expect too much. The need for arms in a banged up rotation has pressed him into major league service sooner than would be ideal. Left-hander Joey Wentz is still working to be more consistent in his delivery, yet he too will be pressed into service as Wednesday’s starter against the A’s. It’s all-hands-on-deck mode, and at least the Tigers pitching depth is getting some major league experience even if the circumstances are less than ideal.

Oakland hasn’t announced a starter and seems set to go with a bullpen day. One would think that would be an advantage to the Tigers’ offense, but we won’t be counting on that right now.

Faedo will also get Willi Castro in center field behind him in Game 2. If this bites Faedo with a crucial defensive mistake, well we won’t be pleased.

The Tigers need wins, plural. No one entered the season with playoff expectations, only playoff hopes, but those are hanging by a thread already. Still, this is all about developing the young players and trying to gauge what the next moves should be. If the Tigers get hot, maybe we can indulge some 2022 hope once more.

The team should get healthier on the pitching side as Matt Manning, Casey Mize, and Jose Cisnero are all tracking to return over the next 3-4 weeks. They can still look forward to adding Riley Greene into the mix, hopefully in June. There is still plenty to watch for, and if the team could flip the switch and rip off a little winning streak, it would really help the organizational and fan psyches over the next few months. But they’ve got to start scoring some runs.

For now, just win a dang game, Tigers, and go from there.