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Series Preview: Tigers host Houston Astros for 3-game weekend set

After losing two of three to the Cubs this week, Detroit turns its attention to the ‘Stros.

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 Major League Baseball season is waning for those teams who are out of the playoff race, including the Detroit Tigers. With a little over a month left on the schedule while sitting 11 games under .500 and 7.5 games out of first place in the American League East division, the Motor City Kitties are playing for pride at this point along with a bit of schadenfreude as they try to spoil the playoff runs of their rivals.

Last week, AJ Hinch’s team dropped two of three to the visiting Chicago Cubs despite the offense showing some sparks in all three games. The squad now turns its attention to the Houston Astros, who pay a visit this weekend to Comerica Park for a trio of their own against the Olde English D.

The ‘Stros enter the series 15 games over .500 and just a game out of first in the tightly-contested AL West, tied with the Seattle Mariners for second behind the first-place Texas Rangers. Houston and Seattle are also both tied for the final two wildcard spots, though the Astros have two more games under their belt.

Take a look below at the pitching matchups for this weekend’s series in the D, including a visit from an old friend on Sunday as the Tigers and Astros tangle for the second and final time this summer.

Detroit Tigers (58-69) vs. Houston Astros (72-57)

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

Game 128 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Manning 64.2 15.6 6.7 5.24 0.1
Valdez 154.2 24.4 6.1 3.50 3.4

Game 128: RHP Matt Manning (5-4, 4.31 ERA) vs. LHP Framber Valdez (9-9, 3.55 ERA)

Manning opened his 2023 campaign against the Astros in Houston back on April 4, earning the win thanks to 5 23 strong innings in which he allowed two runs on six hits (one home run) and two walks while striking out four to earn the win. The 25-year-old’s last two games have been solid as well, combining for three runs — just one earned — on seven hits (one home run) and four walks while striking out three over 11 13 innings. The right-hander has been perfectly serviceable of late and hopefully that trend continues.

Valdez threw opposite of Manning that day for his second start of the season, taking the loss after tossing seven innings of three-run ball (two earned) on eight hits and a walk while striking out nine. The 29-year-old tossed a no-hitter on Aug. 1 but since then has been shaky, putting up a 5.52 ERA and 6.47 FIP over 14 23 innings spanning three starts, surrendering four dingers while striking out just seven over that stretch. If the Tigers can catch him while he is down, it could be good news for Detroit.

Game 129 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Rodriguez 113.0 25.3 5.9 3.15 2.8
Brown 128.0 26.5 7.6 3.98 2.1

Game 129: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (9-6, 3.03 ERA) vs. RHP Hunter Brown (9-9, 4.50 ERA)

One of Rodriguez’s worst games of the season came against Houston — his second loss of the campaign that ultimately kicked off a stretch of superlative performances that had Tigers fans excited about the summer. In that April 5 matchup, the 30-year-old allowed four runs on six hits (two home runs) and two walks while striking out one over 4 23 innings. He laid another turd two games ago but bounced back last time out with a quality start victory over the Cleveland Guardians.

Brown got his first start of the season against the Tigers back on April 3, which did not go so well for him. The 24-year-old now in his sophomore season surrendered four runs on six hits and three walks while striking out five in the no-decision team loss. His most recent outings have been mixed between a scoreless two innings out of the bullpen followed by his worst start of the season in which he lasted just 2 23 innings after allowing six runs on eight hits (one home run) and two walks while striking out five. The Tigers would really appreciate a repeat performance of his last start.

Game 130 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Faedo 51.1 22.0 6.3 4.86 0.3
Verlander 118.1 21.0 7.3 3.70 2.6

Game 130: RHP Alex Faedo (2-4, 4.91 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (9-6, 3.19 ERA)

Faedo takes the mound on Sunday as he grinds through his second season in the majors. The 27-year-old has shown some flashes of brilliance — particularly his six frames of one-hit ball against the San Diego Padres near the end of July — but also has plenty of room for improvement. The right-hander managed to toss a quality start last time out against the Cubs, throwing six innings of four-run ball (two earned) on three hits (one home run) and two walks while striking out four. The Tigers will take those numbers from him every time out if they can.

Last, but certainly not least, is an old friend who needs no introduction to the Tigers fanbase. Verlander began his season with the New York Mets but saw himself heading back to the Texas bayou at the trade deadline this summer. While his peripheral numbers are down — which should come as no surprise for a 40-year-old hurler in the twilight of his career — he is still getting it done as demonstrated by his healthy fWAR. Since returning to Houston, the future Hall of Famer has put up a 3.38 ERA and 3.27 FIP over 24 innings, allowing 27 hits (two home runs) and five walks while striking out 22.

Series Outlook: Continue fighting for the pride of the D

This is no doubt a tough matchup for the Tigers on paper, especially given that all three of the visitors’ starting pitchers have amassed over 2 fWAR this season. Additionally, Houston is tenth in the majors in OPS (.748) and ninth in home runs (167) while Detroit is No. 29 (.681) and No. 24 (130), respectively. The good news is that the offense showed some life against Chicago this week as well as the fact that the Motor City Kitties took two of three from the ‘Stros on their own turf at the start of the season. Sure, that was seemingly forever ago, but as we have seen time and time again, the good guys are capable of winning on any given day.