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Game 98 Preview: Tigers seek to replicate Monday night power surge

Detroit slammed four home runs against the Padres on Monday night.

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MLB: Game Two-Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers partied like it was 1984 on Monday night, rocking the San Diego Padres in Motown to the tune of a 12-4 victory. If you missed it, our recap has you covered, recapping all four home runs in the first four-homer performance by the Tigers in 2022.

Tonight, Detroit faces an old familiar foe for the first time in years: ol’ Sunshine himself, Mike Clevinger. Clevinger was shipped from Cleveland to San Diego at the 2020 trade deadline but missed all of 2021 due to injury. To see him face Detroit at all is a trip down memory lane, but will it be an all-too-familiar exercise in futility? The Tigers feasted on left-handed Sean Manaea yesterday evening, but the right-handed Clevinger has posted a 1.65 ERA in 12 career starts against Detroit. This, plus Detroit’s inability to punish right-handed pitching, could lead to a frustrating night at the plate.

Detroit Tigers (39-58) vs. San Diego Padres (54-44)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: Gaslamp Ball
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchups: RHP Garrett Hill (1-2, 5.63 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Clevinger (2-3, 3.50 ERA)

Game 98 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Hill 16.0 12.3 7.7 5.69 -0.1
Clevinger 46.1 24.7 7.7 3.84 0.7

Garrett Hill gets his fourth start of the year against an interleague foe who may not be as familiar with his skillset at an organizational level. Hill made an exceptionally impressive debut on the Fourth of July, notching six innings of work while allowing just two hits, one walk, and one earned run. He also gave Detroit a fighting chance in his previous start last Thursday, giving up three runs over five innings while allowing seven total baserunners.

The 26-year-old, of course, is in the major league rotation due to a shocking amount of injuries to the Tigers rotation in a year that saw a shortened spring training period. Hill has only notched seven total strikeouts across his first three major league starts, and his six earned runs in five innings against the Chicago White Sox on July 9 compound with the weak strikeout percentage to form a replacement-level fWAR.

Mike Clevinger, meanwhile, appears to have recaptured his vintage form at age 31 following a lengthy period of recovery, to the tune of a 24.7% strikeout rate and a friendly 3.84 FIP. During his most productive years in Cleveland, Clevinger posted a 4.2 fWAR and 3.52 FIP in 200 innings in 2018, and an absolutely dominant 4.5 fWAR and 2.49 FIP in 126 innings in 2019.

Key Matchup: UV (Underperforming Veteran) protection against Sunshine (Mike Clevinger)

Look: if Detroit comes in tonight and continues their 66 wRC+ versus right-handed pitching ways, they would need Murphy’s Law to kick in to win this one. With that said, San Diego is only a -180 favorite to take today’s game as of 10:45 a.m. on FanDuel Sportsbook. So what gives? To be frank, I do not know the answer, but I will wager a guess and say that familiarity must come into play. Detroit has faced Clevinger a dozen times in his career, and veterans of the 2017-to-present rebuild within the organization surely have developed strategies to tackle a pitcher who deserves the moniker “Tigers killer.” Let’s see another three home runs from Miguel Cabrera and Jeimer Candelario tonight, no?