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Series Preview: Detroit hosts Atlanta Braves for 3-game midweek matchup

Riding a nine-game losing streak, the Tigers welcome the Braves to Comerica Park this week.

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Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers were swept for the third straight series last weekend by the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks, who took all three weekend games inside Comerica Park to continue the Motor City Kitties’ downward spiral this month. Now owners of a nine-game skid, they turn their attention to the Atlanta Braves who will be in town for a trio of midweek games starting on Monday.

There is not much to say about this oh-for-June schneid except that it has completely deflated the fanbase, who was enjoying AJ Hinch’s piecemeal squad’s near-.500 efforts as the month of May concluded. It does not look like it will get much better soon, either.

With that in mind, take a look below at the pitching matchups for the next three games, with the opener’s starter for the home team still uncertain. Hopefully, the Olde English D can take at least one of these... but it is not looking good.

Detroit Tigers (26-37) vs. Atlanta Braves (40-25)

Times (EDT): Monday: 6:40 p.m.; Tuesday: 6:40 p.m.; Wednesday: 1:10 p.m.
Place: Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan
SB Nation Site: Battery Power
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Game 64 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
TBD - - - - -
Morton 69.1 25.1 9.8 3.98 1.0

Game 64: TBD vs. RHP Charlie Morton (5-6, 3.89 ERA)

Morton has been a solid member of the Braves’ starting rotation since arriving in Atlanta but has not quite returned to his peak with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019 when he earned an All-Star bid along with Cy Young and MVP votes. Nonetheless, the 39-year-old right-hander is good for 30 starts a season and has proven a reliable innings eater even in the twilight of his career. Take a look at where he ranks among his peers, per Baseball Savant’s 2023 MLB Percentile Rankings.

Baseball Savant

Game 65 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Olson 10.0 23.7 5.3 2.07 0.4
Strider 73.2 40.3 9.3 2.84 2.0

Game 65: RHP Reese Olson (0-1, 2.70 ERA) vs. RHP Spencer Strider (6-2, 3.79 ERA)

Olson takes the mound on Tuesday for his third career major league start after starting off strong in his first two appearances this season. The 23-year-old right-hander went five frames in both of them, allowing a combined three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out nine — both in losing efforts despite his strong performances. The rookie gets by on a five-pitch arsenal headlined by his slider (84.5 mph, 32.9%), followed by a four-seam fastball (95.4 mph, 25.6%), sinker (95.3 mph, 20.1%), changeup (87.9 mph, 15.9%) and curveball (78.8 mph, 5.5%), per Baseball Savant.

Strider has been an absolute beast in his third season of big league action after finishing second in the National League Rookie of the Year race last summer. The 24-year-old has dominated his opponents at the plate, currently leading the majors in total strikeouts (121) as well as strikeouts per nine innings (14.8). The one chink in his armor is an elevated home run rate of 1.1 per nine innings, which is up significantly from his 0.5 allowed last year. The right-hander’s stats on Baseball Savant’s 2023 MLB Percentile Rankings are borderline absurd.

Baseball Savant

Game 66 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Lorenzen 60.0 18.6 5.5 4.02 0.8
Smith-Shawver 7.2 17.9 10.7 3.14 0.1

Game 66: RHP Michael Lorenzen (2-3, 3.75 ERA) vs. RHP AJ Smith-Shawver (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Lorenzen has been an absolute godsend for the Tigers this season as he blossoms into a very serviceable starter despite a rough patch to open the schedule. Unfortunately in his last outing, Hinch left him out too long, turning a solid start into a slugfest with a seven-run seventh inning (five allowed by the 31-year-old in the frame) against the Diamondbacks. Had the right-hander been removed before the murders began, he would have earned his sixth quality start in 10 outings, but alas...

Smith-Shawver is another rookie getting a start in this series after a pair of outings that were not half-bad. The 20-year-old may still be a bit wet behind the ears but still has managed to contribute to a couple of wins for the Braves, throwing two scoreless relief innings in his MLB debut while throwing 5 13 frames allowing two runs (both unearned) on three hits, two walks and two strikeouts in his first career start. The right-hander’s arsenal consists of four pitches, led off by the four-seam fastball (93.6 mph, 50.2%), slider (84.2 mph, 36.8%), curveball (76.4 mph, 6.4%) and changeup (85.4 mph, 4.8%), per Baseball Savant.

Series Outlook: Looking grim again

These Braves are a tough matchup for the Tigers this week, and given how this team has looked since Riley Greene and Eduardo Rodriguez went down with injuries, it does not appear to be getting better for Detroit. Monday night’s game appears to be the most winnable, but with baseball being baseball, who knows? Anyhow, the Tigers really need to snap the schneid soon or it is going to be a long summer.