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Series Preview: Tigers host Arizona Diamondbacks for 3-game weekend set

The Motor City Kitties are in the midst of a doldrum and it won’t get much easier the next three days.

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MLB: Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Times are tough for the Detroit Tigers, who now own a six-game losing streak after being swept by the Chicago White Sox last weekend and Philadelphia Phillies during the week — both on the road — to fall to eight games under the .500 mark. However, the American League Central division is a heaping, steaming pile of cow manure this season with not one team currently holding a winning record.

Not even the division-leading Minnesota Twins have escaped the suck of the ALC this spring, who have still managed to cling to the top spot despite a 31-32 mark. In any other division, the Motor City Kitties would be buried in the standings, but instead, they sit just 3.5 games out of first, tied with the ChiSox for third place.

With the avalanche of injuries, the Tigers are pushing through the schedule with a skeleton roster, looking for contributions anywhere they can find them as the sinking ship continues to spring holes. It does not get any easier this weekend against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who arrive at Comerica Park perched atop the NL West division with a 1.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Take a look below at the pitching matchups for this weekend’s mismatch series between Detroit and Arizona.

Detroit Tigers (26-34) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (37-25)

Times (EDT): Friday: 6:40 p.m.; Saturday: 1:10 p.m.; Sunday: 1:35 p.m.
Place: Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan
SB Nation Site: AZ Snake Pit
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Game 61 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Lorenzen 53.1 19.6 5.7 3.94 0.8
Kelly 70.2 27.6 10.0 3.67 1.4

Game 61: RHP Michael Lorenzen (2-2, 3.21 ERA) vs. RHP Merrill Kelly (7-3, 2.80 ERA)

Lorenzen is one of the few remaining bright spots on this team after a rough start to the 2023 campaign. However, since the start of May, the 31-year-old has just one stinker in six starts with quality starts to show for the other five. His most recent outing against Chicago yielded his best performance so far, tossing seven innings of two-hit ball (no walks) allowing one run while striking out six in a disappointing 2-1 loss. Too bad AJ Hinch is reluctant to allow him to take at-bats as his offense has struggled to back him up.

Kelly, now in his fifth big league season — all with Arizona — continues his solid production from last year with some of his stats even improving over 2022, in which he led the majors in starts. The 34-year-old, who spent four years in the KBO, has kept his opponents off balance for the most part over 12 games this spring thanks to a six-pitch arsenal. The four-seam fastball (92.5 mph) gets the most usage (25.4 %) while he also employs a changeup (88.9 mph, 23.1%), cutter (91.3 mph, 18.8%), sinker (92.3 mph, 13.6%), curveball (82.4 mph, 13.6%) and slider (86.0 mph, 5.5%), according to Baseball Savant.

Game 62 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Boyd 53.1 22.9 9.5 4.35 0.6
Nelson 61.2 13.9 8.3 4.84 0.5

Game 62: LHP Matthew Boyd (3-4, 5.57 ERA) vs. RHP Ryne Nelson (2-3, 5.40 ERA)

There is not much to be said about Boyd that already has not before, but at least he can still be relied upon to get through the opponent’s order at least twice before bringing in the bullpen. Unfortunately, Hinch has tried his luck too many times with the third time through, but given the dearth of decent arms available, his hands a pretty much tied. The good news is that the 32-year-old’s last outing — in which he tossed five frames of one-run ball — should have been good enough for the win, but alas, the Tigers stole defeat from the jaws of victory.

Nelson is the most beatable of the three starters Detroit faces this weekend but that does not mean it will be an easy task. The 25-year-old sophomore big-leaguer appears to still be finding his footing, with some rough performances sprinkled with a few solid efforts as well. His five-pitch arsenal, which consists of a four-seam fastball (94.5 mph, 54.9%), slider (81.3 mph, 14.7%), cutter (85.7 mph, 14.2%), changeup (83.1 mph, 10.7%) and curveball (76.6 mph, 5.6%), still leaves a lot to be desired according to Baseball Savant’s 2023 MLB Percentile Rankings.

Baseball Savant

Game 63 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Wentz 51.2 18.3 9.1 5.62 -0.2
Gallen 78.2 27.9 5.4 2.23 3.1

Game 63: LHP Joey Wentz (1-6, 7.49 ERA) vs. RHP Zac Gallen (7-2, 2.75 ERA)

Wentz continues to struggle as the 25-year-old still cannot seem to find his groove — and there is no singular cause for his foul start to the 2023 campaign. The left-hander's strikeout rate is low, the walk rate is high, and even though his FIP is nearly two runs less than his ERA both numbers still stink. On top of that, he has a 1.76 WHIP, is surrendering 1.9 home runs and 12 hits per nine innings, and has a 57 ERA+. Then there is this.

Baseball Savant

Gallen, on the other hand, is absolutely tearing through the majors this year as he continues his dominance from his Cy Young vote-earning campaign last summer. His 2.23 FIP currently leads the big leagues and his 5.18 strikeouts per walk is the best in the senior circuit, and while it is up a bump from 2022, the 27-year-old’s 1.08 WHIP is still very tidy. Gallen gets by with a four-pitch arsenal (plus one) headlined by a four-seam fastball (93.6 mph, 43.7%), followed by a curveball (82.8 mph, 25.4%), cutter (89.2 mph, 15.8%), changeup (86.3 mph, 14.3%) and sinker (92.0 mph, 0.7%), per Baseball Reference.

Series Outlook: Look out below!

It would be surprising if the Tigers can avoid the sweep this weekend, to be perfectly honest. The mismatch on paper is astounding — Arizona is third in the majors in batting average (.263), ninth in on-base percentage (.328), fifth in slugging percentage (.433) and sixth in runs scored (313), while Detroit ranks 30th (.221), 28th (.297), 30th (.341) and 30th (212), respectively. Combine that with the pitching matchups, and at best, the Olde English D has a chance to prevent the sweep on Saturday afternoon. Otherwise...