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Game 46 Preview: Tigers look to strike back against the Guardians

Cleveland took the second game of the series on Saturday but Detroit has a chance to get back on the winning track.

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Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers dropped the rematch between Alex Faedo and Shane Bieber on Saturday, 8-1, in the second meeting in less than a week between the two hurlers — both delayed by a day due to inclement weather. The rookie once again was good for five-plus innings of two-run ball — as he has been all season so far — this time making it through six and earning his first career quality start. Nonetheless, without any run support, the Motor City Kitties went down with a whimper, ending their chances at a three-game winning streak.

Now that the four-game series is a three-fer, the good guys have a chance of clinching the weekend series from their intradivision foe. They will have to do it behind another rookie, this time a minor league call-up who is simply trying to stop the hemorrhaging caused by the injury bug, against another youngster who has been impressive early on. Here is a look at the two set to tangle in Comerica Park on Sunday.

Cleveland Guardians (19-22) vs. Detroit Tigers (16-29)

Time/Place: 1:40 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Covering the Corner
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Elvin Rodriguez (0-0, 9.39 ERA) vs. RHP Triston McKenzie (3-3, 2.70 ERA)

Game 46 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
El. Rodriguez 7.2 17.6 14.7 6.93 -0.1
McKenzie 43.1 22.4 7.3 3.68 0.7

Elvin Rodriguez got his first taste of major league coffee on April 10 when he tossed 2 23 innings of four-run ball on three hits, two walks and a homer while striking out two in the losing effort. The international free agent signing out of the Dominican Republic allowed four runs in his first start in the big show as well, making it through five frames this time against the Minnesota Twins on May 23, on four hits, three walks and a dinger while striking out four in a game the Tigers ultimately lost, 5-4.

The 24-year-old possesses a palette of four pitches plus one, led off by his four-seam fastball (93.6 mph), curveball (80.1 mph), slider (82.9 mph) and changeup (86.9 mph), along with a sparsely-used sinker (94.1 mph), per Baseball Savant. The four-seamer sees usage a hair over half the time, while the following three secondary pitches are utilized at around the same clip; just two of his 121 MLB pitches were categorized as sinkers by Statcast.

Triston McKenzie, a first-round pick out of high school by the Guardians in the 2015 MLB draft at pick No. 42, has put up some solid numbers already in his young career. The 24-year-old produced a 3.24 ERA, 3.91 FIP and 0.90 WHIP in 33 13 innings during his debut campaign in 2020 and followed that up with a sophomore slump-ish 4.95 ERA, 4.70 FIP and 1.18 WHIP over 120 innings pitched. The pendulum has swung back so far in 2022 as seen in his numbers provided.

The third-year right-hander has a simple three-pitch arsenal consisting of a four-seam fastball (94.2 mph), curveball (79.4 mph) and a slider (87.8 mph) that he uses 61.2%, 21.3% and 17.6%, respectively, according to Baseball Savant. McKenzie excels in three areas on the 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings: fastball spin (68th percentile); expected batting average (63rd percentile); walk percentage (60th percentile). He has a tendency to pound the entire strike zone with his four-seamer while spreading out his breaking balls a bit, focusing more on the bottom and the glove side of the plate.

Key Matchup: Tigers vs three-run rule

Call me crazy, but I feel like if Detroit can breach the mythical three-run barrier it will have a chance in this game, even if Elvin does not inspire a great deal of confidence on the mound. Of course, that will require the bats to do their job which inspires even less, given that the Tigers are currently 28th in batting average (.222), 29th in on-base percentage (.285) and last in both slugging (.319) and OPS (.604), as well as home runs (25). It is no arcane secret that you have to score some runs to win some games.