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Series #26: Athletics at Tigers - Hunters Being Hunted

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Tigers’ Current Record:

36-42, tied for second place in the AL Central with the Twins. A recent surge saw Tigers nearly reach the .500 mark with a 36-37 record, but the team has since lost five consecutive games.

Possible Lineup:

Leonys Martin - CF

Jeimer Candelario - 3B

Nicholas Castellanos - RF

Victor Martinez - DH

Niko Goodrum - 2B

John Hicks - 1B

James McCann - C

Jose Iglesias - SS

JaCoby Jones - LF

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Jordan Zimmerman - RHP

Blaine Hardy - LHP

Mike Fiers - RHP

Michael Fulmer - RHP

Recent Bullpen Usage:

The A’s and Tigers will each need their starting pitching to last deeper into games, as both teams had to rely rather heavily on their bullpens over the weekend. Fortunately for the Tigers, reliever Artie Lewicki was able to throw fifty three pitches in his outing on Sunday, saving two or three more arms from needing to enter the game.

Hottest Hitter(s):

With a .701 team OPS, the Tigers are just marginally better on offense than the A’s last opponent, the White Sox, but even against the White Sox the A’s struggled to keep runs off of the board. The offense was also dealt another serious blow with the news that Miguel Cabrera, the team’s best hitter despite only hitting three home runs on the year, was getting season ending surgery. Switch hitting first baseman Niko Goodrum isn’t able to fill Miggy’s sizeable shoes, but has still been one of the team’s better hitters in Cabrera’s absence. He has an .803 OPS during the last month as he’s gotten more and more playing time, and is looking more comfortable at the plate.

Coldest Hitter(s):

Having been mired in a long and slow decline, Designated Hitter Victor Martinez’s batting line for the last month is .256/.297/.291, which isn’t quite the production one would want from their cleanup hitter, whose one job on the team is to get hits and drive in runs. The normally dependable Castellanos also has an OBP under .300 during the same time span.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

Converted reliever Blaine Hardy has been perhaps the best starting pitcher in Detroit since Justin Verlander left for Houston, and over his last five starts, he has a WHIP of just 1.04. However, due to the nature of the Tigers’ six man rotation, he will shuffle back and forth between the rotation and bullpen and won’t start on every turn. The back end of the Tigers’ bullpen is also very formidable, but none moreso than Joe Jimenez, who has a 0.71 ERA in his last thirteen appearances, and is even getting some chances to close for the team.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

The Tigers’ pitching is better than their hitting, but not by much. Matthew Boyd has seen his ERA steadily rise after a strong start to the year, and Francisco Liriano has been ineffective and injured over the last couple months of the season. In the bullpen, the front end has a lot of question marks and movement between AAA and the MLB, much like the A’s, leading to inconsistency and vulnerability if Detroit has to go to the bullpen too soon.

Key Injuries:

There have been injuries up and down the Tigers’ pitching staff, but as spring turns to summer, by and large, the staff is fully healthy, healthy enough for Detroit to start using a six man rotation. The biggest injury the team has suffered was the biceps injury to Miguel Cabrera, who won’t return to the field this season after getting a surgery. The biggest offensive threat the Tigers have wasn’t having a banner year, but he is the type of player who brings everyone up around him, and his absence from the middle of the order is palpable.

* * *

The A’s road trip started off well with three straight wins against the Padres and White Sox, but some of that good feeling has soured as the A’s dropped two of the next three games to a clearly inferior team. The road trip can certainly still be salvaged with some good play in Detroit, but the Tigers have been surprisingly tough competition all year, weak division or no. This is the final series of what was the “softest” part of the A’s schedule, as the team goes home to take on the Indians after Thursday morning’s game, hopefully the offense can figure things out once more before the schedule toughens up again.

The Tigers were on a recent tear, clawing and scratching their way to a 36-37 record before getting absolutely slaughtered in a two game sweep at the hands of the Reds and a three game sweep versus the Indians. This series is a short respite at home in between two road trips for the Tigers, so the team will surely look to get their feet back underneath them in front of a friendly home crowd.

Game #79: Monday, June 25th, 12:10 - FSD, MLB Network, MLB.tv

Edwin Jackson vs Jordan Zimmermann

Jackson will be in the record books after taking the field for this game, as the A’s will be the thirteenth different team he played for over the course of his long and storied career. Jackson will be making a bid for a permanent slot in Oakland’s injury riddled rotation. In three minor league starts for Oakland, he has a 4.02 ERA. Zimmermann is making just his second start since returning from injury.

Game #80: Tuesday, June 26th, 4:10 - NBCSCA, FSD, MLB.tv

Frankie Montas vs Blaine Hardy

Runs may be at a premium in this evening affair between Montas and Hardy. Each pitcher has a very different approach and style to their pitching, but have been getting excellent results. While Montas relies on a hard fastball to play up his other offerings, Hardy is more of a slider-first two pitch pitcher.

Game #81: Wednesday, June 27th, 4:10 - NBCSCA, FSD, MLB.tv

Sean Manaea vs Mike Fiers

As the season officially reaches its halfway point, already, there will be another strong pitching matchup. Manaea has gone back to being dominant in his starts after a hard-to-watch May, and Fiers has done a wonderful job of run prevention this month, he just hasn’t gotten much of any run support at the same time.

Game #82: Thursday, June 28th, 10:10 - FSD, MLB Network, MLB.tv

TBD vs Michael Fulmer

With the injury bug continuing to go exterminated in the A’s clubhouse, the A’s have yet to confirm which pitcher will be starting on Thursday. Whomever it is that the team picks, they will be going up against a Fulmer who will have had a week’s long rest. Whether the extra rest will give Fulmer a boost or mess up his timing and make him rustier is yet to be known.