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Series Preview # 11: Detroit Tigers @ Arizona Diamondbacks

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The Tigers and Diamondbacks square off for one of those weird 2-game series. It’s like one of those hour and fifteen minute movies, it’s over before you know it. So get prepared, and read the preview, because by the time your done reading the series might be over!

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of a disappointing series loss to the Rockies in Colorado, the Diamondbacks come home to start a home stand off with a 2-game series against the Tigers. Arizona has now lost three series in a row, albeit against two teams that are a combined 41-23 at the time of this writing, so it’s not like they lost three series against the 1962 Mets. But, after a tough road trip, the Dbacks will be looking to get back on track with some home cooking. Let’s see what we can expect in this quick two game Interleague matchup!

The Detroit Tigers come to Chase Field to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday and Wednesday, before the Pirates come to Phoenix for a four game set. In preparation of this series, we were fortunate enough to have one of the writers (Ashley) from the Tigers’ SB Nation site (http://www.blessyouboys.com) reach out to the Snakepit to partake in some Q & A. She was kind enough to answer a few questions that I had for her, and the following are her responses:

Steven: The most obvious questions in my mind is about our old friend Justin Upton. I think that while he was here in Arizona, he had such high expectations that he was never going to live up to because he was drafted 1-1 overall, and everyone expected him to become the savior of our franchise. He hasn't been Mike Trout, but over his career, he has had some really good years. In your opinion, how do you think the Tiger's fans like J-Up?

Last season, Upton was a bit of a sore subject for Tigers fans. He was brought on for a 6-year $135.75 million contract, and then almost immediately started to slump hard. Towards the end of the season, around September, he improved by leaps and bounds, and in 2017 he’s having a really solid season. He’s hitting .264/.390/.494 and already has 5 home runs. He’s also been making some solid defensive plays in left field, and the Tigers definitely need that kind of a consistent arm in the outfield right now. My biggest complaint about Tigers fans when it comes to Upton is that they love to complain about him when he’d floundering, but as soon as he’s performing well, people seem to forget he exists. Very disappointing.

Steven: The AL Central has been one heck of a division over the first month+ of the 2017 season, with four teams over .500 and within one game of first place. How do you feel about the Tiger's chances of getting to the playoffs in this division?

I write a weekly column about the AL Central called Central Intelligence, and let me tell you, the first month and a bit of this season has been hell to predict. The deck seems to shuffle every week. A lot of this has to do with a very heavy divisional schedule to start the season, where Central teams were facing each other constantly. I know a lot of people think the Indians are a shoe-in for the division title, but if the Tigers can play well and stay healthy, they have a shot. If not for the title, than for a wild card spot.

Steven: We will get the opportunity to see Justin Verlander this series. He had a rough patch a few years back, but last year he looked like his old self, leading the league in strikeouts and WHIP. Has he looked like the ace of old so far this year, and what can we expect when we face him?

He’s been a bit uneven to start the 2017 season, but nothing particularly worrying. If he would start using his changeup a bit more, that would be great. I think, overall, he’s aged a fair bit so he may never be the Justin of years past, but I also don’t believe Tigers fans need to worry about him this season.

Steven: How about the rest of the pitching staff and bullpen? How have they looked so far this year?

Starting pitching has slowly gotten its feet under it, with everyone having their share of iffy outings, but also some solid performances. Jordan Zimmermann is looking healthy and lasting longer into games, which is huge, even if his command isn’t quite where we’d like it. Michael Fulmer is getting back into the groove that saw him win the Rookie of the Year award last season, and if he can maintain that, he’s going to be a monster. As for the bullpen, well… some of it is great and some of it is a nightmare. Francisco Rodriguez is not the closer he once was, and seems to be blowing up saves more than helping close out games. But we’ve seen some nice performances from Justin Wilson, Blaine Hardy, and recently Shane Greene. As long as Anibal Sanchez isn’t used I have some confidence in them.

Steven: Now, how about the offense? From the outside, it looks like they have been doing pretty well, averaging nearly 5 runs per game at the time of this writing. Have they been as good and consistent as it looks on paper?

The Tigers only have two modes: score all the runs, or score none of the runs. When the offense is on, they are an absolute force of nature, with hits for everyone. When they’re not finding their rhythm, we’re lucky to see one or two runs a game. Needless to say that can be extra frustrating if a pitcher has had a solid outing but the offense just isn’t backing it up.

Steven: Lastly, can you give us your opinion of the Diamondbacks? I know it's hard to know everything about every team, but I would be interested to know how an AL fan/writer feels about the Diamondbacks so far. Is their hot start just a desert mirage, or do you think they are for real?

I’m going to be super honest here, beyond Goldy and Grienke, I had to look up who else was on the team. (shout out to former Tigers Robbie Ray and Francisco Rodney!) Since we don’t play against Arizona a lot they’re sort of one of those teams we don’t think about much. As for the start you guys are having this year, though, who the heck saw that coming? It’s been an awesome start to the season for the DBacks which is sort of exciting, because who wants to see the same teams win every year? I love an “underdog” type team where the unexpected franchise gets to come up a winner.

A BIG thank you to Ashley for giving us her insights on the Tigers, the Diamondbacks, and the series!! It’s always nice to get the kind of news and opinions that are only possible from a fan from a different team. And now, on with the preview!

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Justin Verlander vs. Robbie Ray:

Boy this game should be good, huh? As Ashley noted earlier, Justin Verlander is not the same pitcher that he was years ago when he was the AL MVP, but he is still a formidable foe. Last year he led the AL in strikeouts and WHIP, which sounds like it might be the perfect recipe to counter a Diamondbacks team that strikes out a lot and doesn’t draw a lot of walks (outside of Goldy). Opposing Verlander will be Robbie Ray. Ray made his major league debut for the Tigers back in 2014 at the ripe age of 22. This year, Ray has so far been outstanding, but has also struggled with his usual pitch count issues here and there. But he has shown signs of having a breakout year, and he leads the league in K/9 at a whopping 12.1. At his current rate, he is on pace to eclipse 250 strikeouts while tossing nearly 200 innings. Let’s hope that materializes. Be on the lookout for some strikeouts this game... actually never mind, they won’t be too hard to find.

Game 2: Matthew Boyd vs. Zack Godley:

For all of the luster that the first game’s pitching match up has, game number two sure ends the series in a fizzling wet pile of broken fireworks. No offense to either Boyd or Godley, but this will likely be a high scoring affair. Matt Boyd has a career 5.31 ERA over 188.0 innings, but has pitched well to start the 2017 season. He has a 3.78 ERA over 33.1 innings, and is coming off of a strong outing against the Cleveland Indians in which he went 7.2 innings and allowed 3 ER. Godley will be making his second start of the year, and should be looking to try and keep a spot in the rotation since they team has been searching for a replacement for Shelby Miller. You can probably plan on hitting up Taco Bell on Thursday, because there should be plenty of runs in this one.

Offense

Both Arizona and Detroit have been swinging the bat well to start they year, and they are both hovering right around 5.0 runs per game. Both teams, however, are also subject to prolonged dry spells followed by outrageous offensive explosions. This has never been more evident than the home/road split that the Diamondbacks have experienced thus far:

Home_Road_Splits.csv

Split Runs H 2B HR RBI Avg. OBP SLG tOPS+
Split Runs H 2B HR RBI Avg. OBP SLG tOPS+
Home 110 182 41 25 104 0.301 0.363 0.506 131
Away 49 108 13 14 46 0.205 0.280 0.329 64

Let’s hope that this trend continues for at least the next ten games so that the Dbacks can get some much-needed wins.

The Tigers’ offense this year has not had as extreme of a split as the Diamondbacks, and in fact, there is not much of a split at all. They rank fifth in all of baseball in both runs per game and OPS+, and they are coming to a hitter friendly park in Chase Field, so this won’t be a walk in the park. Justin Upton has started the year off strong, and you know that he will be looking to get some revenge in Arizona. Miguel Cabrera is not the Triple Crown threat that he was a few years ago, but by God he is a .320 career hitter and a lock for the Hall of Fame, so we better not look past him. And with veterans like Ian Kinsler and and Victor Martinez, there are a lot of dangerous pieces to this offense, so our pitching better be ready.

Prediction

The stupid two game series even makes predictions annoying. I’m going to play the odds here and say that we win one and lose one since that seems like the most probably outcome. Since it would be a boring poll to ask you how many wins you expect in a series this short, I have a different kind of poll for you today. Let’s go Dbacks and get some wins!!!

Poll

What is Your Favorite Pet?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Cats
    (29 votes)
  • 49%
    Dogs
    (38 votes)
  • 6%
    Other (Birds, Fish, etc...)
    (5 votes)
  • 6%
    I don’t like pets because I am a Dodger’s fan, and my moral values are as cleanly as a pile of pine tar.
    (5 votes)
77 votes total Vote Now