Considering that the MLB trade deadline is now only a day away, this preview should be filled with dramatic tension. Lefty Tarik Skubal making potentially his final start in a Tigers’ uniform. The club’s need for young bats could force general manager Al Avila to make a bold move by dealing his top young starting pitcher. Instead, not only has talk about making a deal based around Skubal died down, but overall around the league, there has been a shocking lack of rumors, let alone actual deal-making. Other than a major move by Seattle to acquire Cincinnati Reds' ace Luis Castillo, the level of other moves can be summed up by the San Francisco Giants' acquisition of Dixon Machado.
We assume that the Tigers will do something, but even their most obvious trade candidates don’t seem to be generating a whole lot of chatter. Or perhaps the “roomers” system just isn’t functioning the same way since the lockout. Maybe we’re in for a quiet trade deadline. Maybe the introduction of superstars Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani into the “possibly available” category has just flipped the whole system on its ear. Or, much like the end of the lockout itself, nothing is happening until the final day when suddenly everything happens all at once.
The Tigers would love to be able to flip a few of their veteran position players, but the likelihood of any interest in Tucker Barnhart or Robbie Grossman seems slim. With the season lost, the club would like to find both of those players a home as role players for a contender rather than cut them loose. Probably they aren't going to get even cash considerations for either, as teams are well aware that the Tigers need to get them out of the way to make playing time for younger guys. Why pay anything when you can just wait for the Tigers to cut them loose to open up playing time for younger players?
The Tigers need to see more Akil Baddoo. They need to get catcher Ali Sanchez up from Toledo to see what he can offer toward the 2023 Tigers. Ryan Kreidler's season has been largely lost to injury, but as he returns to the Mud Hens' lineup, a look at the big leagues should be in order eventually as well. And that Kerry Carpenter fella just won't stop hitting, so whatever scouting types might think about his vulnerability to major league pitching, it's about time to put it to a test. To make all that happen, the veterans who have failed this season need to be moved out of the way.
For now, the Detroit Tigers are in Target Field prepping for three against the AL Central leaders. After a series with the Toronto Blue Jays that would’ve gone much better if the Tigers weren’t giving out unearned runs like they were party favors, the team needs to keep its head in the game and play a cleaner brand of ball despite the knowledge that this season is an unsalvageable failure, and that a few members will likely be in the final days of their time with the club.
Detroit Tigers (41-62) at Minnesota Twins (53-48)
Time/Place: 7:40 p.m. EDT/Target Field, Minneapolis, MN
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.tv, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (7-8, 3.67 ERA) vs. TBD
Game 104 Pitching Matchup
The Minnesota Twins haven’t announced a starter as of this writing, so we’ll assume they mix together some kind of spot start and bullpen day combo, probably to irritating effect on a feeble Tigers’ offense.
The assumption, is that the Twins will call up former Blue Jays' starter Aaron Sanchez. Injuries and ineffectiveness have kept the right-hander out in the wastelands of rehabilitation assignments, Triple-A work, and brief looks at the majors. Sanchez was terrible in seven starts for the Washington Nationals earlier in the year and doesn't really appear to have found anything in eight Triple-A start since the Twins picked him up. If that's the move, the Tigers should feast.
On the plus side, the Tigers will send the best they’ve got to the mound in the first of three games. After a rough patch in June and early July, lefty Tarik Skubal has settled back in, but without quite finding the strikeout touch he showed earlier in the season. A 3.75 FIP in July seems like a pretty accurate representation of his level right now. A good pitcher who shows flashes of more, it will take more consistency for Skubal to take the next step toward the top tier of starting pitchers.
In June, a little fatigue and the difficulty of repeating his somewhat elaborate delivery seemed to be the culprit behind his struggles. After doing a much better job spotting his fastball and slider to the glove side earlier in the year, he left too many pitches over the plate during that stretch and paid the price. That issue has resolved again over the past couple starts, and as long as Skubal can continue to keep right-handed hitters honest by busting them inside with good command, the path should be open for his slider in, changeup away approach to start racking up more strikeouts again.
The biggest improvement for Skubal this year has been dramatically cutting down on the home runs against him. It remains to be seen if he can sustain that development for a full season, but with two months to go, he’s in good shape. The dangerous Twins, at home in a pretty good home run park in Target Field, will provide another good test of Skuba’s ability to avoid the big mistake and keep the ball off the barrels of a lineup full of quality hitters.
Skubal has faced the Twins twice already this season. Back on April 28 in Minneapolis, the Twins chipped away at him, putting up six runs, five earned, without hitting a single home run. About a month later, Skubal throttled the Twins at Comerica Park in a dominant seven-inning performance with just two hits and a walk allowed. There’s some familiarity building now in his second full season in the major leagues. Whoever makes the better adjustments will have the upper hand.
We’ll expect a good performance from the left-hander today. This is the game in the series that the Tigers really should win, but not only will the offense have to have a particularly good day at the plate, but they’ve got to clean it up defensively. Manager A.J. Hinch was vocal about his disgust with the defensive effort in Toronto, but expecting them to clean it up the way this season has gone remains a dubious proposition. Hopefully, Skubal won’t need a lot of help.
As for the Twins, they have control of the AL Central and will play 20 home games in August after a brutal stretch of the schedule in late June and July. After beating the Tigers twice in Comerica a week ago, they’ve lost four of their last five, and now hold just a one-game lead over the Cleveland Guardians. They’ll be very motivated to put that favorable schedule to work in turning things around to pull away with the division. The Tigers better be ready to play, or a hungry team actively looking for upgrades at the deadline might just run right through them.