The Tigers’ hitters poked their heads out of the den briefly over the past two weeks, but the combo of Gerrit Cole and Luis Severino sent them scurrying back underground on Friday and Saturday. The club needs to pull it together to avoid a sweep on Sunday. They won’t have to face an ace, but they’ll once again be relying on a young starter still finding his way.
However, for better or for worse, many of you may have a bit of trouble finding the game, as once again the televised broadcast will only be hosting by a streaming service, Peacock, in this case. Since this one is scheduled to begin before noon, many probably won’t even start looking for it until 1:00 p.m. EDT in the first place. Are we growing the game yet?
The Tigers got a really nice outing from Beau Brieske on Saturday. The rookie right-hander has been working on his slider and it showed. As we’ve been repeating since Brieske got on the radar a year ago, developing a better, more consistent version of his slider is the key to him becoming a bona fide major league starting pitcher. On Saturday, he showed a little better tilt and much better command of the breaker, and it tied his whole repertoire together. Brieske racked up 11 whiffs and seven strikeouts total, and it was clear that the Yankees had more to deal with than earlier teams who faced the right-hander.
Hopefully, Sunday’s starter Rony Garcia can follow suit. Facing the high-flying, baseball-punishing Yankees’ offense is as good a test as there is in the game. It will take Garcia at his best to pass it.
Detroit Tigers (21-32) at New York Yankees (38-15)
Game 64 Pitching Matchup
The Tigers will see a pretty different look after the lethal back-to-back combo of Cole and Severino, but Jordan Montgomery is no slouch either. The 6-foot-6 southpaw throws downhill with a power sinker, and mixes a good changeup and curveball in for a lot of weak contact on the ground.
Montgomery is pretty light in the strikeout department this season, but he’s getting great chase rates with his secondary pitches, leading to plenty of soft contact. His K rate is five percent lower than in 2021, but he’s also cut his walk rate down substantially this season. Really, Montgomery appears to be getting ahead in counts and still pitching aggressively, not an easy feat in Yankee Stadium. So far, it’s led to him working quick innings while holding a 1.01 WHIP so far this year.
RIght-handers typically have an advantage against Montgomery, while lefties have struggled against him his whole career. However, Montgomery is doing a solid job against either hand this year. His changeup is an equalizer against right-handers, while his curveball is particularly tough on lefties. The Tigers may put the ball in play more today, but they’ll need to find some holes through the infield to avoid tons of routine outs and quick innings.
As for Garcia, he’s been a nice surprise out of the bullpen this season. Going through the order once seems to be his ideal role, but as his fastball and changeup have improved a bit, the potential for success as a starter has been glimpsed more often. He’s made a few adjustments to lower his arm slot and improved the movement on his fastball. He still doesn’t get a ton of whiffs from the fastball, but has benefited from Tucker Barnhart’s ability to get edge calls. If he can locate well again on Sunday, the Yankees are going to have a tough time.
The other key will be pitching aggressively with his curveball, the best pitch in his quiver. Garcia uses his funky, 80 mph low-spin curve a lot, throwing it 34 percent of the time, and he may want to lean into it further against the Yankees on Sunday. Starting the outing with heavier doses of his best pitch may be the best way to put the Yankees power hitters off their game early on. Chris Fetter has had quite a few pitchers with nothing special fastballs pitch backwards more often. This might be a good time to try it with Garcia.
Garcia’s changeup, on the other hand, is decent but too firm to really draw many whiffs. He is getting relatively weak contact against it for the most part, but it’s decidedly a third pitch.
Overall, Garcia has been racking up strikeouts and handling right-handed hitters well so far. If he can play to his strengths by keeping the big right-handers in check, he’ll have a fighting chance at a good outing. If his command fails him and he leaves a lot of pitches over the heart of the plate, it’s liable to get ugly pretty fast.
Key Matchup: See ball, hit ball
Hopefully a couple of guys have a good day, because Garcia will need some help.