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Game 35 Preview: Can Tigers sweep O’s and make it three in a row?

Detroit took the first two games of the weekend set vs. Baltimore and look to finish the kill on Sunday.

Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers - Game One Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

It has been a great weekend so far for the Detroit Tigers, who have now won two games in a row for just the third time this season after defeating the Baltimore Orioles in Comerica Park on Saturday, 3-0. A pair of solo home runs by Willi Castro and Eric Haase powered the offense while the pitching staff managed to navigate the early loss of its starter Michael Pineda to a broken finger, cruising to the victory thanks to a chain of five relievers who shut down the O’s.

The Motor City Kitties can earn their first sweep of the season on Sunday with a third-straight victory over the visitors. However, the matinee matchup looks to be a tight one as Detroit sends one of its rising stars to the mound while Baltimore has one of its own young up-and-comers taking the bump. Take a look at their season numbers below.

Detroit Tigers (11-23) vs. Baltimore Orioles (14-20)

Time/Place: 1:40 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: Camden Chat
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (2-2, 2.94 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Wells (1-2, 3.75 ERA)

Game 35 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Skubal 33.2 25.0 4.4 2.41 1.2
Wells 24.0 17.3 4.1 3.96 0.5

I will not go too in-depth on Tarik Skubal because my colleague Brandon Day already broke him down in a lush 1,400-word article well-worth reading that we published early Sunday morning. Interestingly, the lefty’s fWAR leads the team — by a lot — which is twice that of Eduardo Rodriguez’s value and three times that of Willi Castro’s and Austin Meadows’ totals. Are we watching the metamorphosis of a young pitcher into a rising star right now? It certainly feels like it, as the 25-year-old has asserted his spot at the top of the rotation in the early goings of 2022.

The former ninth-round pick’s last time out against the Oakland Athletics was his best performance of the season so far, shutting down the A’s with seven innings of scoreless ball allowing just three hits and three walks while striking out five over 92 pitches for his second win of the season. However, his walk total was a season-high and his strikeouts per nine hit a season-low, but he managed to handle his opponent efficiently.

Tyler Wells takes the mound for the O’s in his sophomore season of major league ball, both coming in Baltimore. Originally drafted in the 15th round of the 2016 MLB draft out of California State by the Minnesota Twins, the right-hander made his way to the crabcake capital when the Orioles plucked him from the 2020 Rule 5 draft in a move that appears to have paid off so far. Wells put up a modest 4.11 ERA, a solid 3.63 FIP and a sparkling 0.91 WHIP in 57 innings of work during his rookie campaign with all 44 appearances coming in relief and 18 to close out the game, which is a pretty good return on a Rule 5 selection.

The 27-year-old possesses a five-pitch arsenal led by his four-seam fastball (93.7 mph), changeup (86.9 mph), slider (86.3 mph), curveball (79 mph) and sinker (94 mph) which he employs at 38.1%, 21.3%, 19.7%, 17.1% and 3.9% rates, respectively, according to Baseball Savant. Wells is getting excellent results in three of the 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings categories, landing in the 94th percentile in fastball spin, 89th percentile in walk rate and 85th percentile in chase rate, while also placing above average in curve spin (66th) and fastball velocity (57th); however, he does bottom out in strikeout rate, sitting in just the 21st percentile.

Key Matchup: Tarik Skubal vs. Orioles’ bats

From the sounds of it, Tyler Wells is likely to give Detroit’s anemic offense fits so it can be expected that it will be a low-scoring affair once again. As such, it all falls on Skubal’s shoulders to keep the O’s at bay as he did against the A’s — which is well within the realm of possibility. Additionally, eating seven or more innings would give a much-needed breather to the bullpen, which has been showing cracks from overuse of late but has overall been one of the strong spots on the team. If Skuby can pull it off, the Tigers will earn their first series sweep of 2022 and the first true winning streak at three-straight games.