The Detroit Tigers’ losing streak finally came to an end after nine-straight games of futility with a win in the series opener against the Atlanta Braves on Monday, but the Motor City Kitties failed to build on that victory, dropping the next two to continue its downfall. Now sitting 12 games under the .500 mark and in sole possession of fourth place in the American League Central division, AJ Hinch’s squad hits the road to face the ALC leader.
The Minnesota Twins, who currently rule over the worst division in the sport just two games over .500, play host to the Tigers this weekend in Minneapolis for an extended four-game series that could deep-six Detroit if things go badly. The Twinkies are not exactly anything to write home about either, having won just four of their last 10 games, so it could be a grand opportunity for the good guys to make up some ground.
Take a look below at some of the expected starting pitchers for this weekend — with a trio of “to be determined” hurlers for both teams currently on the ledger.
Detroit Tigers (27-39) at Minnesota Twins (35-33)
Times (EDT): Thursday: 7:10 p.m.; Friday: 8:10 p.m.; Saturday: 2:10 p.m.; Sunday: 1:40 p.m.
Place: Target Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Game 67 Pitching Matchup
To paraphrase the late Dennis Green, Boyd continues to be who we thought he was. The 32-year-old continues to be perfectly serviceable the first two times through the order but remains snake bitten when left on the mound for too long. The lefty’s last time out was a shining example when he tossed five frames of five-run ball on six hits (two home runs) and two walks while striking out three in the loss. He had held his opponent to just two runs through four and failed to get an out in the fifth before he was yanked. This old dog just is not going to learn any new tricks.
Gray, now in his 11th major league season and second with Minnesota, has put together his finest campaign in recent memory in 2023. The veteran right-hander leads the majors in ERA+ (187) and home runs per nine innings (0.1) while topping the American League in FIP (2.43). He gets by utilizing a six-pitch arsenal headlined by his curveball (79.1 mph, 20.9%), followed by the four-seam fastball (92.6 mph, 20.7%), sinker (92.5 mph, 18.6%), cutter (87.5 mph, 17.7%), sweeper (83.5 mph, 15.4%) and changeup (87.3 mph, 6.7%), per Baseball Savant.
Game 68 Pitching Matchup
Game 68: TBD vs. RHP Joe Ryan (7-3, 2.90 ERA)
Ryan has also put up some superb numbers in his third MLB season — all with the Twins — with an FIP lower than his ERA (2.77 vs 2.90) and a WHIP under one (0.97). The 27-year-old has had just one sour outing in 13 tries so far and has otherwise tossed 11 quality starts. His one Achilles heel is in giving up hard contact as he sits in the bottom 3rd percentile in maximum exit velocity among his peers, according to Baseball Savant. He possesses a four-pitch array led by a four-seam fastball (92.5 mph, 58.1%), split-finger (83.2 mph, 28.1%), sweeper (78.8 mph, 8.1%) and slider (82.6 mph, 5.7%), which he employs respectively.
Game 69 Pitching Matchup
Game 69: LHP Joey Wentz (1-6, 7.23 ERA) vs. TBD
Wentz is having a rough go at it this season for Detroit as he continues to struggle — but due to the ravenous injury bug, Hinch has little choice but to keep sending him out every five days. Why say many word when one picture work?
Game 70 Pitching Matchup
Game 70: TBD vs. RHP Louie Varland (3-2, 4.70 ERA)
Lastly, there is Varland to take the bump for the Twinkies on Sunday afternoon in his sophomore major league season. The 25-year-old, originally drafted in the 15th round of the 2019 MLB draft by Minnesota out of local Concordia University, has regressed a little from his solid rookie campaign and is currently a paragon of “replacement level”. The right-hander has had some ups and downs in 2023, with his last two outings being among the worst of his short career. Over the last 10 2⁄3 innings stretching over two games, he surrendered 11 runs on 12 hits (three home runs) and six walks while striking out 11. The Tigers could feast on him if that continues.
Series Outlook: Tigers have a chance to gain some ground
Detroit has won just one game in June, with its skid coming on the heels of injuries to Riley Greene and Eduardo Rodriguez. However, reinforcements are just on the horizon for the Olde English D and if they can hang tight until they arrive, maybe this team can turn things around before the All-Star break.