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Game 126 Preview: Tyler Alexander and the Tigers head south

Tigers travel to Texas to tackle the team that terminated their top taskperson too.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

After a short and surprising winning homestand, the Detroit Tigers make a brief 3-game road trip deep in the heart of Texas. They’ll take on a Rangers team that also came into the year with dreams of contending, but saw their plans crumble.

The similarities between the two teams, at least on the surface, are rather remarkable. Both enjoyed sustained success from 2010-2016, regularly making the postseason and both reaching the World Series but coming up short. Both embarked on rebuilding around 2017 and both spent heavily this winter as they envisioned their young core meshing with big free agents to take them back to winning ways. Neither team lived up to these expectations and in August, both teams terminated their general managers.

That’s where the similarities end between the two teams. The Rangers' offense is ranked in the top 10 for total runs scored and checks in tied for 11th in wRC+. They have scored more runs on the season than they have given up, which gives them a .513 Pythagorean winning percentage. Unfortunately, this has not carried over to their record. While both teams have had more or less similar performances from their pitching in ERA, the Rangers have kept their rotation largely intact and are dealing with underperformance from some young members they were likely expecting to take a step forward this year.

Martín Pérez is enjoying a fine year as the de facto ace of the staff, and Jon Gray has pitched well, though he’s currently on the 15-day IL with an oblique strain. Where things have come apart are in the young arms. Dane Dunning, once a yearly top 100 ranked prospect in the White Sox system before being traded for Lance Lynn, has struggled to adjust to major league hitting in his two years in the big leagues. Spencer Howard, who came from the Phillies system with an even higher prospect pedigree, has struggled to stay healthy and is dealing with a shoulder issue. This has turned things over to the Rangers' system depth arms, and there have been mixed results.

Detroit Tigers (48-77) vs. Texas Rangers (57-67)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Globe Life Field
SB Nation Site: Lone Star Ball
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV (Free Game of the Day), Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tyler Alexander (3-7, 4.03 ERA) vs. RHP Glenn Otto (5-8, 4.66 ERA)

Game 126 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Otto 94.2 17.1 12.6 5.41 -0.3
Alexander 60.1 11.9 5.6 4.33 0.3
Fangraphs.com

Glenn Otto, the pitcher, not the air-guitar-playing, pot-smoking, school bus driver from The Simpsons, came to Texas from the Yankees as part of the return for Joey Gallo. He never garnered much attention in prospect lists but had still put together solid numbers through his minor league journey. He got his first taste of MLB action late in 2021 so this year is his first full year in the majors.

Otto has had some ups and downs, as is to be expected with a young arm in their rookie season. He started off pitching well in his first few games before having some rougher outings in May. In June he was placed on the COVID-IL list and missed about two weeks. Since returning, he mixed good and bad outings, mostly bad through July before finding a stretch of four good outings so far in August.

He doesn’t possess very imposing stuff nor does he get many swings and misses. He mostly uses a fastball which sits at 92 and a slider which sits at 81. He’ll mix in a changeup and a curve every once in a while. He doesn’t generate much more than average spin on any of his pitches. As such he doesn’t get many strikeouts and his K/9 is only 6.8. Compounding this is the fact he struggles with command. He has a BB/9 of 4.9 and it puts him in the top 10 for the highest walk rate among MLB pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched so far in 2022.

Still, despite these things he’s displayed a knack for avoiding big innings and controlling the damage to at least give his team a fighting chance. Facing the Tigers' offense should present no real issues for him, but he’s certainly hittable. If the Tigers can draw their walks and find a way to get their hits with men on base, they’ll find success. But I wouldn’t count on it.

On the other side of the pitching matchup is Tyler Alexander, facing one of the better offenses in the league. He has given his team a chance to win in each of his four outings in August, but the only win was his last start against the Angels this past Saturday. He hasn’t been dominant in any of those starts but that’s not the pitcher he is. He is a command specialist that doesn’t give up many walks and gets weak contact in lieu of strikeouts. He’ll give up hits but he relies on his defense to turn soft- and medium-hit balls in play into outs.

We’ll see how that plays out against the Ranger’s offense. He has faced the Rangers once in 2022, but that was in two innings of relief back in June. He gave up one hit and struck out two but the game was out of reach at the time he entered.

Key Matchup: Can the bats show up?

This isn’t a bad matchup for the Tigers on paper, rather it seems fairly even, but we’re grading on a curve here because the Tigers' offense is so prone to completely not showing up day after day. IF, and I cannot say IF enough, their bats show up in this one, they should put some runs on the board and keep this close with their bullpen. But this could very well be another game where they get some runners on base but cannot do anything with them. At least they can take pride that they don’t play inside a stadium that looks like a big grill.