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Game 22 Preview: A tradition unlike any other

The Tigers host super hated rival Pittsburgh for a high-tensioned two-game set.

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Detroit Tigers v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

April has come and gone without the Detroit Tigers winning a single complete series. They went 2-1 against the Kansas City Royals but the final game of that four-game set was postponed until July. This is probably not too much of a surprise, but does put a little damper on those hopeful for a surprise run this season. There are still plenty of games left, but the team is going to have to prove it can string even a couple of victories together before anyone can take it too seriously.

The Tigers have a good chance to do that against perennial “rival” Pittsburgh. The Pirates are going through a bit of a funk as well, having won just one of their last six and could possibly give Detroit its first series win of the season in a short two-game set at Comerica this week.

New signing Michael Pineda will make his third start for the Tigers after a pair of very different five-inning outings. While he kept the Yankees scoreless in his Detroit debut, he was roughed up pretty badly in Minnesota to the tune of four earned runs and three homers. Though he has yet to walk a batter, he has also struck out just four total hitters this season, leading to a nasty 6.19 FIP.

The true Pineda is likely somewhere in the middle, but unfortunately his Baseball Savant page looks like freezer-burned blue moon. He has only made two starts this season, but there are very few things to like about his profile thus far, so odds are there are more clunkers to come. On the hand, Pineda has a track record of putting up plenty of quality starts as well. The Tigers do not need him to be an ace, but he will need to look a lot more effective than his last outing if he is going to survive the season. After a late start due to the lockout, it’s perhaps no surprise that Pineda didn’t exactly hit the ground running, but the Tigers need him to be effective this evening.

Pittsburgh Pirates (9-13) vs. Detroit Tigers (7-14)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Bucs Dugout
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Bryse Wilson (0-0, 4.70 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Pineda (1-1, 3.60 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

Bryse Wilson made his way up to Pittsburgh in a midseason trade last deadline as Atlanta acquired Richard Rodríguez. The 24-year-old had brief stints with the Braves in each of the prior three seasons, but it was not until 2021 that he finally got full-time duties as a starter. It was not exactly a successful campaign (combined 5.35 ERA, 5.49 FIP), but he is young enough for the Pirates to give a longer leash.

After three tough starts to begin the year — none going longer than 4 13 innings and all featuring multiple runs allowed — Wilson pitched four shutout frames against the Brewers last week. However, this came as a long reliever, entering in after the first two innings following a last-minute change at the top.

Wilson is slated to start Tuesday night, so perhaps this was just a one-time thing, but it was by far his best effort of the season. Should he struggle against the Tigers, a bullpen role could be in store for him. Regardless of role, though, he will definitely need to improve about his 3.0 percent K-BB rate, which is not going to last very well long-term. Wilson does not have the profile of an elite strikeout pitcher, so he will need to get his control in shape if he is going to be a major league starter.

Key matchup: Tigers vs. slippery slope

April 2021 was one to forget, especially with the way the Tigers impressed during the rest of the season. However, that squad’s 8-19 mark heading into May is not too dissimilar from where this club stands right now. Again, few expected this team to compete without a lot going right, and all of the early injuries cemented the downside to that reality. Still, a few more series losses will really put a damper on this season and make the second half much tougher to enjoy, even once everyone is healthy. It seems a little early to be so alarmist, but it would be a bummer to end the spring in even worse shape than last year.