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Series Preview: Detroit hosts Cleveland Guardians for three-game AL Central tangle

After a successful weekend against the Giants, the Tigers now turn their attention to a division foe.

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San Francisco Giants v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers have won three games in a row after sweeping two games from the visiting San Francisco Giants. Sure, the third game on Sunday was rained out, but I do not make the rules and winning X out of X games always equals a sweep.

Fans of the Olde English D have to be feeling a bit better about its beloved club after gritting out three close games in a row, which was kicked off by a 3-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on the road, while the last two games required extra innings to sort out the winner. With the offense waking up and the pitching just keeping afloat for now, suddenly, this team might not be quite as terrible as many had feared. In fact, if you Porcello out the Tampa Bay Rays series, this team is just a game below .500.

But of course, it does not work like that.

Next up for the Motor City Kitties are their intradivision rivals, the Cleveland Guardians, who arrive on Monday for a three-game midweek matchup inside Comerica Park. The Mistake by the Lake comes in having taken two of three from the Washington Nationals in D.C. — albeit, dropping the final game on Sunday — and look ready to rumble with its American League Central foes. Take a look below at how the two teams match up on the mound.

Detroit Tigers (5-9) vs. Cleveland Guardians (9-7)

Times (EDT): Tuesday: 1:10 p.m. (straight doubleheader); Wednesday 1:10 p.m.
Place: Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan
SB Nation Site: Covering the Corner
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Game 15 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Boyd 9.0 17.1 17.1 4.17 0.1
Gaddis 12.2 18.6 8.5 4.27 0.2

Game 15: LHP Matthew Boyd (0-1, 4.00 ERA) vs. RHP Hunter Gaddis (0-1, 8.53 ERA)

Boyd has been a steady contributor so far this season, albeit on a short leash to minimize his exposure to the third time through the batting order. The lefty veteran has not made it through the fifth inning in two tries this season, but the 32-year-old has done well to minimize the damage while he is on the mound, allowing just two earned runs in each of the two games. Maybe more importantly, he has yet to surrender a home run in nine frames — an area that has historically been his Achilles heel.

Gaddis has had mixed results to start off his second year in the big leagues, getting spanked in two of his three appearances but looking spiffy in his third. The two team losses the 25-year-old pitched in saw him throw 3 23 innings against the Seattle Mariners, surrendering four earned runs on five hits, a walk and a hit-by-pitch, while striking out four before his most recent game against the New York Yankees in which he was stung to the tune of eight earned runs on eight hits, two walks and a HPB, allowing a home run and striking out three over three frames. Hopefully, he continues to struggle Monday on the mound.

Game 16 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Rodriguez 16.0 13.6 7.6 5.57 0.0
Battenfield 4.2 16.7 0.0 2.04 0.2

Game 16: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. RHP Peyton Battenfield (0-0, 1.93 ERA)

Rodriguez’s first two starts of the season were nothing to write home about, but his last one against the Jays in Toronto was easily the best so far. The 30-year-old veteran earned himself a quality start with six innings of one-run ball on seven hits and a walk while striking out three in what ultimately turned into a loss for the Tigers. Detroit’s top starter continues to use his changeup more than the sinker this season — a flipping of trends — with the former thrown almost exclusively to right-handed batters and the latter distributed much more evenly.

Battenfield is a 25-year-old rookie who was selected by the Houston Astros in the 9th round of the 2019 MLB out of Oklahoma State who ended up in Cleveland by way of Tampa Bay via trades. The right-hander appears to have a four-pitch arsenal headlined by a cutter (87.6 mph, 48.5%), followed by a four-seam fastball (91.6 mph, 31.8%), curveball (80.0 mph, 18.2%) and changeup (85.5 mph, 1.5%) in limited MLB innings. In fact, he has thrown just 4 23 frames so far, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits while walking none and striking out three in a start against the Yankees.

Game 17 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Turnbull 13.0 15.9 9.5 4.63 0.1
Quatrill 15.2 12.0 6.7 4.79 0.2

Game 17: RHP Spencer Turnbull (1-2, 9.00 ERA) vs. RHP Cal Quantrill (0-1, 5.74 ERA)

Turnbull, much like his teammate Rodriguez, saw some positive results last time out after two tough outings to start the 2023 campaign. In Toronto, he managed to cage the Jays by allowing just a run on six hits and a walk while striking out six for his first win. The 30-year-old appears to be finally finding his touch as the former second-round pick continues his return from Tommy John surgery, though his four-seamer remains a tick below where he was in 2021. That said, the Red Bull is currently in the 79th percentile in fastball spin and 75th percentile in chase rate, according to Baseball Savant’s 2023 MLB Percentile Rankings.

Quantrill has had some issues finding his footing so far in his fifth major league season but has seen some modest gains over his first three starts. The 28-year-old first took a beating at the hands of the Mariners, allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits, two walks and a home run while striking out three. But then the right-hander improved with a five-inning effort in which he allowed three earned runs on seven hits and a walk against Seattle a second time before notching a quality start against the Nationals thanks to a six-inning, three-earned-run effort in which he surrendered six hits, two walks and a home run while striking out three once again.

Series Outlook: The Tigers can take two

After modest requests for just one win these last couple of series to simply avoid getting swept, I am feeling a bit more frisky this time around. Not only must Detroit win at least one, they really should be able to take a pair — especially with its best starters taking the mound. But that all depends on how well the pitching holds up and whether or not the offense decides to show up. Even with that caveat, this is a series on paper that the Tigers have a decent shot at, and if they can prevail over their hated rivals, things will be looking a lot sunnier in the D.