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Game 26 Preview: Tigers look to avoid a series loss to Astros

After falling short on Thursday and Friday, Detroit attempts to take one of the final two games on Saturday.

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Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers are back on the schneid once again after losing the second game of a doubleheader on Wednesday to the Pittsburgh Pirates before dropping the first two of a four-game series against the Houston Astros on Thursday and Friday nights. Their most recent loss saw another solid effort on the mound go to waste as the bats continue their late spring slumber, leading to a second-straight one-run defeat, 3-2. Beau Brieske continued to show promise while also looking rather wet behind the ears at times, and while the offense managed to tack a couple of runs on early, the score heading into the bottom of the third is what appeared on the final line.

The Tigers get two more chances this weekend to aggravate the Astros in their home ballpark starting on Saturday afternoon when they send their de facto ace pitcher — who has struggled to find his footing in Detroit so far — to the mound to face off with Houston’s own veteran who has gotten off to a rather fine start so far. Here is how the matchup on the mound shakes out.

Detroit Tigers (8-17) at Houston Astros (16-11)

Time/Place: 4:05 p.m., Minute Maid Park
SB Nation Site: The Crawfish Boxes
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-2, 5.33 ERA) vs. LHP Framber Valdez (1-2, 3.42 ERA)

Game 26 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Rodriguez 25.1 20.7 7.2 3.75 0.4
Valdez 26.1 17.1 12.6 4.06 0.2

Eduardo Rodriguez has underperformed expectations so far this season after arriving in Detroit on a five-year free-agent contract back in November. As we highlighted in a recent article on the crafty left-hander, his lack of command has been his bane as bats are making solid contact with his offerings, which have resulted in some crooked numbers up on the scoreboard during his outings. The 29-year-old, who primarily depends on a four-seam fastball, cutter and changeup, has been struggling with all three offerings and has even seen some increased spin on his changeup, albeit a small amount, which is rarely a good thing.

The veteran from Venezuela has already started five games in 2022, allowing three runs or more in all of his outings, with his worst performance coming in his last start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he surrendered six runs (four earned) on eight hits with no walks and five strikeouts in 5 23 innings. That was slightly worse than his second start against his former team the Boston Red Sox in which he seven runs (two earned) on five hits, three walks and a dinger with five strikeouts in 3 23 innings. Rodriguez allowed three earned runs in all three of his other starts, and with the offense stumbling as it has, the Tigers need him to be a bit better or it is going to be a long summer.

Framber Valdez, now in his fifth season with the team that originally signed him as an international free agent back in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic, takes the mound looking to clinch the weekend series for the ‘Stros. The left-hander has had a fairly impressive campaign so far with only one major blemish — a loss to the Los Angeles Angels in which he surrendered six runs in 4 13 innings — and has done well preventing the ball from leaving the yard with just one home run allowed so far, coming in his last game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 28-year-old possesses a five-pitch arsenal led off by his sinker (93.5 mph), followed by curveball (78.9 mph), changeup (88.7 mph), four-seam fastball (93.4 mph) and cutter (83.9 mph), according to Baseball Savant. Valdez leans on the sinker just a hair over half of the time, with the curve coming in at 25.2% usage, followed 10.3% for the change, 7.3% for the four-seamer and 6.2% for his very slider-like cutter. The results are not too shabby in comparison to his peers, as illustrated below in the 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings.

Baseball Savant

Key Matchup: Bats, Bats, Bats and Bats

For the love of all that is holy the Tigers’ offense has to start clicking. Yesterday’s preview noted how low Detroit’s offense ranks in the traditional categories and the results on Friday were no different than what was honestly expected. Obviously, they have got to get E-Roddy goin’ but with a bullpen that has been as impressive as it has been so far, the Motor City Kitties are going to have to find a way to win games in which three runs are scored against them, which seems to be Eduardo’s baseline right now.