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Tigers at Rays preview: Eduardo Rodriguez hunts for a series victory

The Tigers can make it back-to-back series wins for the first time this season.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers will hunt for a series victory on Wednesday afternoon before finally getting a day off in the midst of a nine-game road trip. They have the right guy on the mound to get it done. Eduardo Rodriguez was a little shaky over his first few starts but has looked to be settling in nicely over the past couple of outings. With a pretty even starting pitchin gmatchup, the opportunity to take a road series from one of the best teams in baseball is right there for the Tigers’ taking if the offense can muster some run support.

Unfortunately, that remains the central difficulty for the 2022 Tigers. On Tuesday night, lefty Shane McClanahan shut them down, allowing just four hits though Jeimer Candelario did take him deep for a solo shot. Wednesday’s opponent, right-hander Drew Rasmussen, is perhaps a slightly easier task, but not an easy one.

Detroit Tigers (13-24) at Tampa Bay Rays (22-15)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m. EDT/Tropicana Park, St. Petersburg, FL

SB Nation Site: DRaysBays

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

Pitching Matchup: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (1-2, 3.72 ERA) vs. RHP Drew Rasmussen (3-1, 2.67 ERA)

Game 38 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Rodriguez 38.2 3.83 21.0 9.3 0.93 0.6
Rasmussen 33.2 3.05 20.3 6.0 0.53 0.7

Eduardo Rodriguez hasn’t really hit his stride for the Tigers yet, but the last two outings have been much more what they were hoping for when he was signed this offseason. Against the Houston Astros back on May 7, Rodriguez blanked them over 6 23 innings with eight strikeouts and no runs allowed. Last time out he did basically the same thing to the Baltimore Orioles, allowing one run over 6 23 innings.

Overall Rodriguez has looked pretty good, but his first few starts showed him struggling with his command and the feel for his changeup. The former is coming along, but the changeup has still been a bit sketchy. Neither the fourseamer nor the changeup has yet drawn the rate of whiffs he usually gets, despite pretty normal movement profiles. As a result of struggling a bit to find his good feel for the changeup, Rodriguez is actually throwing more fastballs than usual so far, mainly by mixing in more sinkers, though the fourseamer remains the bread and butter of his repertoire.

Expect a good outing against the Rays today. Things have been trending in the right direction and while their offense got loose against Beau Brieske last night, they haven’t exactly been tearing it up and Rodriguez is the type of pitcher that should give them fits if he’s locating his pitches as expected.

Drew Rasmussen is another hard-throwing Rays pitcher who doesn’t really use a changeup. He mixes a firm mid-90’s fourseamer with a newer low-90’s cutter and mid-80’s slider, using them in basically even doses, each a little over 30 percent of the time.

That makes him tough to predict, and while Rasmussen doesn’t really rack up a ton of strikeouts, he’ll get his share while suppressing hard contact in the air. His fourseamer and slider are both particularly high spin offerings, but the whiff rates are fairly pedestrian. They work anyway by racking up a lot of ground balls. The Tigers will need some balls to find holes in the infield if they’re going to put up some runs against him.

Key Matchup: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Rays history

Coming over from the AL East to the Tigers this past offseason, Rodriguez has faced the Rays plenty of times. Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena in particular have had pretty good success against him in a very limited number of plate appearances. Yandy Diaz has also had plenty of success, and while Mike Zunino hasn’t gotten many hits against him, when he has hit Rodriguez, he’s done damage.

The Tigers’ offense is still limping along and probably aren’t going to blow Rasmussen out of the water. To win the series, Rodriguez will have to be sharp against a team that is pretty familiar with him and has had success. Hopefully he can keep the Rays in check long enough for the Tigers to scratch out a lead. Pitching ahead he should be able to exploit the Rays aggressiveness more effectively. He’s been on a pretty good run recently, so we’ll hope he can keep it going.