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Game 52 Preview: There is a lot to like about the Tigers right now

Aside from a game that costs $4.99 to watch.

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

Apparently playing the Twins does not have to end in pain, as the Detroit Tigers took four of five from first-place Minnesota in a rare elongated series. While the Tigers are still fourth in the division and nine games under .500, it is hard to complain when the team has won seven of its past nine games.

The task gets a little tougher this weekend as the Tigers head to New York. The Yankees have already won the first series between the two, and no team in the American League looks tougher right now. It will be a real challenge to continue the hot streak, especially with a 24-year-old making his third career start.

Elvin Rodriguez feels like the 30th pitcher to appear in the Detroit rotation this season, but he has handled the role as well as anyone could have asked. His first start was immediately damaged with a first-inning grand slam, but he actually has not allowed a run in eight innings since. He has thrown eight strikeouts in his nine frames as a starter, and while the Yankees are a different beast, he is at least coming into Friday with some confidence.

Detroit Tigers (21-30) at New York Yankees (35-15)

Time/Place: 7:05 p.m., Yankee Stadium
SB Nation site: Pinstripe Alley
Media: Apple TV+, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Elvin Rodriguez (0-0, 6.17 ERA) vs. RHP Gerrit Cole (4-1, 3.12 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

Bummer. Gerrit Cole struggled in his first two starts, allowing three runs apiece before heading to Detroit for his third outing of the season. The Yankees ace comically lasted just 1 23 innings that night after throwing 68 pitches thanks to a walk-walk-walk-sac fly-walk sequence in the second inning, though he did only surrender two runs.

Since that strange start, Cole has been pretty dominant, never going less than six innings and posting a 2.33 ERA and 1.91 FIP. During these seven appearances, he has racked up 60 strikeouts to just eight walks, completely overmatching all sorts of hitters and pretty convincingly quieting any dissenters.

Nearly everything is working for Cole, but the introduction of the cutter just seems unfair. The big right-hander is throwing it 13.7 percent of the time with good success (.176 wOBA against) and that gives him yet another weapon to unleash, as if he needed any. The fun banter about spin rate and sticky stuff is more or less moot at this point as he has been awfully strong for most of the first two months of 2022.

Key matchup: Tigers fans vs. the streaming wars

Detroit makes its Apple TV+ debut, which is probably the last thing most fans want to hear. The service’s Friday Night Baseball slot joins Peacock’s MLB Sundays in the ever-growing list of ways to watch baseball. The Red Sox’s cable network recently announced its own standalone service, and there were rumors of Bally Sports soon doing the same. One has to wonder if this is simply what the future requires for fans wanting to watch all 162 games.