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Game 39 Preview: For the first time in Guardians history...

The Tigers get their first look at their rebranded nemesis.

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

For the better half of the past decade, it has felt like no team has tormented the Detroit Tigers more than Cleveland. The winds of change are active with the team’s rebranding, however, so perhaps the Guardians era will bring about some better fortunes for a Tigers squad that can use any help it can get.

Four straight wins gave way to a pair of bad losses to end the Tampa series, sinking Detroit down to the bottom of the AL Central standings. With Eduardo Rodriguez hitting the injured list, there are very few healthy options left in the rotation. The team’s last hope is Tarik Skubal, who takes the mound Friday.

Skubal has been awesome thus far, striking out over 10.2 batters per nine innings and averaging six innings a start over his past five outings. The 25-year-old is still perfecting his secondary offerings, but he is definitely the most exciting arm in the organization right now. The Guardians are a little above average in scoring but eighth in wRC+ this season, so the southpaw will need to be sharp once again.

Detroit Tigers (13-25) vs. Cleveland Guardians (16-19)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Progressive Field
SB Nation site: Covering the Corner
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (3-2, 2.50 ERA) vs. RHP Aaron Civale (1-3, 9.85 ERA)

Game 100 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Alexander 33.1 12.9 5.7 4.32 0.2
Kikuchi 65.0 25.1 13.9 5.81 -0.5

Aaron Civale has a 22.3 percent strikeout rate and is not walking a ton of batters, but that is about where the good news ends. Nearly every start this year has been a disaster, with three of his last four featuring six earned runs. No way is he going to stay this bad, but there are some real fears in Cleveland right now.

The concerns start with a dip in velocity, sitting in just the fourth percentile per Baseball Savant. This has allowed hitters to really tee off, leading to a 13.4 percent barrel rate, nearly double his career average. Home runs are up accordingly, as Civale has surrendered six bombs in just 24 23 innings this season.

The right-hander is still only 26 and Cleveland has a pretty strong track record with arms. Still, this start has been shocking from a player who logged a 3.84 ERA last season and entered the year with expectations of taking another step forward. Unfortunately, the Tigers' offense might be the perfect remedy for his early struggles.

Key matchup: Skubal vs. carrying the whole burden

The Trio of the Future has made just 11 starts this year, with Skubal accounting for seven of them. Casey Mize and Matt Manning were the first-rounders, but both are currently injured and have yet to prove they can handle a full major league workload. Meanwhile, Skubal keeps impressing start after start and is giving Tigers fans at least something to cling onto. Hopefully, he can take it in stride and not be weighed down with the quickly consolidating weight of hope.