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Game 55 Preview: Water unfortunately finds its level

The Tigers’ fun two-week stretch was savagely halted by the dominant Yankees.

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MLB: JUN 01 Twins at Tigers Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The obvious thing happened, as the Detroit Tigers strutted into New York as winners of seven of their past nine games, only to be violently quieted by the MLB-leading Yankees. The home team took no-hitters deep into the first two contests before walking off Sunday for the sweep, sending the Tigers down to 10 games back of first place in the division.

The Tigers will make a quick stop by Pittsburgh on the way home for another two-game set against the Pirates. The designated rivals split an early May series in Detroit and will now finish off their annual four game rodeo. Up first is the ever-impressing Tarik Skubal. The youngster threw seven innings of two-hit ball against the Twins last time out and lowered his season ERA to 2.15, which is right in line with his 2.01 FIP.

Detroit fans are getting very familiar with Skubal’s strong start to the season, which continues to shine brightly amidst a rotation full of injuries and absences. Even after getting drilled in the leg, Skubal just keeps proving he belongs, both in performance and availability. He enters Tuesday having allowed just three runs in his past 32 innings and should be able to stay hot against the Pirates.

Detroit Tigers (21-33) at Pittsburgh Pirates (24-28)

Time/Place: 7:05 p.m., PNC Park
SB Nation site: Bucs Dugout
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (4-2, 2.15 ERA) vs. LHP José Quintana (1-2, 2.32 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

It has been five years now since José Quintana left the White Sox, and none of those seasons have been too impressive. After opening up his MLB career with five straight seasons of an ERA under four, the 33-year-old has really struggled, with five straight on the other side of that number, including a tough 6.43 ERA last season. While his strikeout figures have actually been up during that stretch and indicators like FIP suggest he might be getting a bit unlucky, there is a very clear distinction pre- and post-trade.

That might all be changing back toward the better this season, however, as Quintana has been fairly effective as a Pirate. Signing for just one year and $2 million over the offseason, his first 10 starts have been plenty effective, averaging right around five innings and just once allowing more than two runs in a given start.

Quintana has found this success despite regressing strikeout numbers (7.33 K/9) and a drop in velocity. He has overcome this by limiting his average exit velocity to 86.2 mph, which is the best in his career and near the top of the majors this season. His command might not be excellent, but it certainly has been good enough this year for him to become a solid starter again who might see himself moved to a contender at the deadline.

Key matchup: Austin Meadows vs. the rest of the offense

When Austin Meadows hit the injured list, he was one of the Tigers’ most reliable hitters, and nothing has changed since then. Meadows still sits at second on the team with 113 wRC+ and his return (whether that is Tuesday or later this week) provides some much needed help near the top of the order. Meadows was not even having an elite year per se, famously benefitting from some well-placed weak contact, but Detroit is in no position to be choosy right now. He will immediately slot in as one of the offense’s best pieces.