Monday, July 21, 2008

The Series Ahead: Detroit Tigers

(In honor of my favorite and hometown team, the Detroit Tigers, I am starting a new segment called "The Series Ahead." OK, lame name, but if you can come up with anything better let me know. Here I will preview the upcoming games in the Tigers schedule and make predictions. If you don't like the Tigers, that's your problem. Either put up with it, or leave a comment with a team you would like to see me preview their next series.)

Splitting the series with the Baltimore Orioles two a piece on the road coming off the All-Star break, the Tigers head to Kansas City to face the division rival Royals. We are still bitter after the Royals came in and destroyed us the first series of the year, so it should be an interesting series.

Detroit is 6.5 games back of the Chicago White Sox heading into tonights game. While there still is a lot of time left in the season, I don't see how another AL Central team is going to win the wild card (either Boston or Tampa Bay will get that, in my opinion), so a sweep here would be big for the Tigers.

Tonight (July 21): Tigers (49-49) vs. Royals (45-49); Kauffman Stadium | 8:10 PM ET

Probable pitchers:

Zach Miner, RHP (3-3, 4.23 ERA)
Luke Hochevar, RHP (6-7, 5.10 ERA)

Because of Eddie Bonine's troubles the past couple of starts, the Tigers called Miner back up from Triple-A Toledo to join the rotation. Originally he was sent down to find his lost changeup and control, but the Tigers feel comfortable enough to call him back up to the big leagues. They are hoping he can do what he did in 2006 when Mike Maroth was out, and help lead us to a second half surge. Hochevar has shown some promise, especially with his last start on July 11, defeating the Seattle Mariners, giving up only five hits and zero walks. Few Detroit hitters have faced him, and with the confidence from his last start I could see him giving the Tigers some trouble tonight. Last season Royals hitters hit .200 off Miner, but I like this years Royals team a lot more than last years. I actually think this may be a pitchers duel and could come down to how well the bullpens do. Detroit's has been shaky lately, blowing the game versus the Orioles on the 19th, and I think the Royals pull game one out.

July 22: Tigers vs. Royals; Kauffman Stadium | 8:10 PM ET

Probable pitchers:
Kenny Rogers, LHP (7-6, 4.62 ERA)
Kyle Davies, RHP (3-1, 4.59 ERA)

In Rogers' last start against the Orioles, he gave up 4 runs in 6 innings but still got the win. Rogers has struggled against the Royals this year, allowing KC hitters to a .578 slugging percentage, and holds two losses in two starts vs. them. Rogers has gone deep (for his age) into his past couple games, going 6 innings against the Orioles and 7 innings July 10 against Minnesota (he got a no-decision). Davies has not looked good as of late, not posting a victory since June 17. Part of that has been because his offense hasn't given him any run support, but walks have been a problem for Davies. Last season facing Detroit, he was 0-1 with an ERA above 3.50. Look for Curtis Granderson to produce in this game, as he hit a home run last time he faced Davies. Tigers win this one.

July 23: Tigers vs. Royals; Kauffman Stadium | 2:10 PM ET

Probable pitchers:
Armando Galarraga (7-4, 3.41 ERA)
Zach Greinke (7-6, 3.90 ERA)

Galarraga has been great for the Tigers this year, coming out of no where to be perhaps the most productive pitcher for them this year, but in his last start he gave up three homers to Baltimore. He's dropped his last two starts, but I think he breaks that in this game. If he can incorporate his other two pitches in for strikes, instead of overusing the slider, he will be able to throw strikes consistently. Galarraga hasn't faced the Royals this year, so hopefully he can confuse the hitters with a variety of pitches and speeds. Greinke posted his shortest outing of the season his last start, giving up 7 runs and 11 hits in 3+ innings against the Chi-Sox. He did defeat the Tigers back on April 3, but I think this offense knows Greinke now and should be able to get the job done. Tigers win on a Cabrera go-ahead home run.

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