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Oakland A's vs. Detroit Tigers series preview: I guess the Tigers are okay

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The Oakland Athletics (20-28) host the Detroit Tigers (23-23) for three games.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers
Tigers 2B Ian Kinsler returns to the Detroit lineup after missing two games with the flu.
Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers come into this three-game series against the A's 23-23, a reasonable three games behind the Chicago White Sox, though only ahead of the Twins in the AL Central. They've got a -5 run differential, which is 17th in MLB. They've scored 4.59 runs per game (9th most) and allowed 4.70 (8th most). They did take three out of four from the A's in Detroit, but they also had Jordan Zimmermann pitching for them in that series.

While they've hit pretty well overall, they've struggled against left-handers with an 83 wRC+ (.236/.306/.366) and they'll have to face Oakland's two left-handers in this series. Ian Kindler and J.D. Martinez are the only Tigers batters hitting significantly above average against southpaws, though you know Miguel Cabrera would be happy to bring that side of his game back to life against the A's.

Pitching probables and broadcast schedule

If the A's are going to win, they'll want to take advantage of Jordan Zimmermann skipping his turn in the rotation due to a strained groin. The Tigers did have Thursday off, so they could theoretically push Justin Verlander up to Sunday instead of starting Mike Pelfrey, but the Detroit Free Press says the Tigers have elected to opt for an extra day of rest for everybody.

Friday: Michael Fulmer vs. Sean Manaea

A pair of rookies square off in our opener, with Fulmer rated as Detroit's top prospect to enter the year, and ranking in the top 100 lists of Baseball Prospectus (#87), Baseball America (#47), and MLB.com (#53).

Fulmer's rotation spot may be on the line in Oakland with Shane Greene on rehab, reports Catherine Slonksnis of Bless You Boys. Matt Boyd, who starts Saturday, and Daniel Norris could also end up taking Fulmer's spot if he doesn't get deep into the game, like in his first four starts. In his last start, however, Fulmer finished seven innings, striking out 11 Tampa Bay Rays and walking one while allowing one home run.

Saturday: Matt Boyd vs. Jesse Hahn

Matt Boyd is really on a hot streak with Triple-A Toledo, owning a 1.32 ERA in his last four starts over 27 1/3 innings. For the year in Triple-A, Boyd owns a 2.06 ERA and has struck out 41 while walking just 13 and allowing only three home runs.

Sunday: Mike Pelfrey vs. Rich Hill

This is a win on paper, which of course means it's a trap game. Still, Pelfrey is also playing for his rotation spot even the Tigers still owe him $8 million in 2017. Brandon Day writes earlier this week for Bless You Boys:

The scary part, is that there's really nothing left for Pelfrey to try either. He's increased the use of his split-fingered fastball already, but it continues to be hammered for home runs and extra-base hits, just like his fastball. Pelfrey throws his fastball over 65 percent of the time, so any decline in that pitch is going to be amplified. His batting average on balls in play is nearly identical to last year, so luck hasn't really factored into the equation either. The Tigers defense can't keep Pelfrey in the park.

Bullpens

Francisco Rodriguez is 14-for-15 in save opportunities this year, but the rest of the bullpen isn't a lockdown unit. There will be a chance to extend leads or make comebacks as long as Oakland hitters can do their jobs and get Tigers starters out of games early, whether that means working counts or just batting around on them.

Recent usage patterns for the Tigers and A's bullpens from Roster Resource.