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Game 109 Preview: BYB Meetup Day honoring the great Lou Whitaker

The Tigers hope to honor one of the greatest second basemen of all time with a win over the Rays.

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Detroit Tigers Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The big day is here! After years of waiting, the great “Sweet” Lou Whitaker will finally have his number retired and hoisted up on Comerica Park’s wall. The ceremony was originally set for 2020 to honor the second baseman but the COVID pandemic foiled those plans along with Bless You Boys’ meet-up event. Now two years later, both Lou and the crew will finally have their day in the sun.

As for the Detroit Tigers, the skies have been gloomy of late as the squad has dropped six of its last seven games, including the first two of a four-game home series against the Tampa Bay Rays. After failing in Thursday night’s affair, 6-2, the Motor City Kitties stumbled again on Friday as the pitching staff coughed up 13 walks en route to a 5-3 defeat to leave them with just one win in July so far.

While the Tigers faithful are hoping for a tribute performance from the Olde English D to honor one of the franchise’s all-time greats, the odds are not terribly encouraging on paper as Tampa Bay sends their shut-down starter to the mound to face a rookie who is not quite ready for the bright lights of the big leagues just yet. Here is what is in store for today's momentous occasion.

Detroit Tigers (42-66) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (57-49)

Time/Place: 6:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: DRaysBay
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Garrett Hill (1-3, 5.88 ERA) vs. LHP Shane McClanahan (10-4, 2.07 ERA)

Game 109 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Hill 26.0 9.8 9.8 5.65 -0.1
McClanahan 122.0 34.4 5.0 2.63 3.2

Since his sterling major league debut, things have not gone well for Garrett Hill, a former 26th-round selection by the Tigers in 2018. If you think his numbers above look bad, when you remove that one good game, his stats balloon to a 7.90 ERA and 5.91 FIP — and even considering all six starts so far, the right-hander is still serving up an even 1:1 ratio of walks and strikeouts. We can dissect his stats all we want but the fact of the matter is the 26-year-old is in over his head. However, when the team is struggling to find warm bodies to put on the mound, he will have to do.

Shane McClanahan, on the other hand, has been dominating for the Rays this season with both sparkling traditional and peripheral numbers. The second-year hurler, who was drafted in the first round out of nearby USF the same year Hill was selected, has stymied his opponents with a four-pitch arsenal headlined by a four-seam fastball (96.7 mph), curveball (81.6 mph), changeup (87.6 mph) and slider (88.8 mph), which he employs respectively, per Baseball Savant. His efforts earned him an All-Star bid, and if he keeps things up, he is certain to receive votes for some other important hardware as well.

Baseball Savant

The 25-year-old has faced the Tigers once before this season back on May 17 when he threw seven innings of one-run ball on four hits — including a solo home run — while walking none and striking out seven for the win.

Key Matchup: The BYB crew vs. the game

The starting pitching today is brutally mismatched in favor of the visiting team — something Detroit fans have become accustomed to this summer. With Sweet Lou finally getting his due, and the Bless You Boys staff and fans on hand, it would be great if the Tigers could eke out a win and set things up for a weekend series split on Sunday. But even if the good guys fall short, it should be a great time for everyone in attendance. Like I have always said: A bad day of baseball is better than a good day of work.