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Game 33 Preview: Tigers host the Orioles for a weekend series

After dropping four out of five to the Oakland Athletics, Detroit looks to bounce back vs. Baltimore this weekend.

Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers continue to struggle, scoring just a pair of wins so far in the month of May over a stretch of 12 games, quickly sinking the team toward the bottom of the major league standings. AJ Hinch’s squad simply has not been able to figure out its last four opponents, which include the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates (against whom they split a pair), Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics (against whom they dropped four of a five-game series).

Thursday night against the A’s, the Motor City Kitties kept it close until the late innings, taking a tied 3-3 game into the eighth inning after bouncing back from a rough Beau Brieske start, only to have Michael Fulmer cough up the go-ahead runs, resulting in a 5-3 loss. The good news was that the offense started to show some signs of life as Tucker Barnhart and Willi Castro both collected a pair of hits while Jeimer Candelario tripled and earned a walk. Nonetheless, it was not enough to emerge victoriously.

The Tigers turn their attention to the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, who they will host for a three-game set this weekend. One of Detroit’s biggest offseason free-agent acquisitions heads to the mound looking to continue the progress he made in his previous outing while the O’s send a grizzled veteran to the mound to do battle. Take a look at the matchup below.

Detroit Tigers (9-23) vs. Baltimore Orioles (14-18)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: Camden Chat
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Lyles (2-2, 4.05 ERA)

Game 33 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Rodriguez 32.0 23.0 8.1 3.84 0.4
Lyles 33.1 17.6 7.4 4.38 0.4

Eduardo Rodriguez, now in his seventh year in the major leagues, has had a slow opening to his time in the Olde English D, struggling over his first five starts to the tune of a 5.33 ERA over 25 13 innings, allowing 25 hits (three home runs) along with eight walks while striking out 23. The 29-year-old’s command was clearly shaky early on resulting in hard contact, though he apparently dealt with some bad luck over that stretch as well according to his 3.79 FIP. However, in his sixth start on May 7 against Houston, he spun 6 23 innings of one-hit ball — a solo shot off the bat of Jose Altuvé — walking three while striking out eight over 99 pitches for a 1.18 WHIP. Unfortunately, Detroit lost the game, 3-2.

The venerable Venezuelan still has a ways to go before his ship is completely righted, as exemplified by his rankings in Baseball Savant’s 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings. The left-hander is above average — barely — in just three categories: expected batting average, strikeout percentage and walk percentage (all 53rd percentile). The rest? Pretty yikes. Take a look for yourself.

Baseball Savant

Jordan Lyles toes the rubber for Baltimore in the first season with the team after arriving on a free agent contract signed back in March. The 12-year veteran has spent time with six other franchises before joining forces with the Orioles, most recently the Texas Rangers, with whom he logged the most innings in a single season last year despite leading the American League in earned runs allowed (103) and the majors in home runs allowed (38). The right-hander has managed to suppress the long ball a bit better while lowering his ERA so far this season but has also seen his WHIP balloon to 1.50.

The 31-year-old journeyman plies his trade with a toolbox that includes a four-seam fastball (91.9 mph), slider (80.7 mph), changeup (87.2 mph), sinker (91.2 mph) and curveball (79.7 mph), according to Baseball Savant, which he employs at 29.3%, 24.7%, 19.2%, 14.6% and 12.2% clips, respectively. This combination has not fared all that well so far in Baltimore, as he is currently in the bottom 1% of the league in maximum exit velocity (118.8 mph) while ranking in the lower end of the 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings as illustrated below.

Baseball Savant

Key Matchup: E-Rod vs. himself

As bad as Detroit’s offense has looked, Lyles seems like the kind of pitcher the Tigers’ bats can heat up against given his recent track record. Under that assumption, it is incumbent upon Rodriguez to go out there and replicate his performance last time out. It truly feels like he is fighting against himself out there at times and has not let the game come to him. While the bullpen has shown that it is mortal of late, a solid six innings from the starter along with a few runners crossing home plate for the good guys should result in a win for the Olde English D.