SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Tigers were the worst team in baseball a year ago but they’ve been more competitive than expected in 2018 due to the simple fact that they are at least okay at just about every facet of the game.
Red Sox 0, Tigers 0
Up. The Tigers are playing what is likely their best baseball of the season to date and they have not lost a series until one that started on May 21. They split a doubleheader against the Yankees on Monday, and prior to that they’d won three consecutive series against the White Sox, Angels and Blue Jays. Overall, Detroit has won nine of their last thirteen games.
6/5: Steven Wright vs. Artie Lewicki, 7:10 PM ET
The Red Sox are going to take an opportunity to give all of their starters an extra day of rest this week by giving Wright a spot start to begin this series. The knuckleballer has been pitching out of the bullpen since he returned from injury/suspension, and he’s been good in that role. He’s been particularly impressive in his last four outings in which he has not allowed a run over nine innings of work. Control has been an issue for Wright this year, and while that seems like a normal problem for a knuckleballer he has actually been able to keep his walk numbers in check over his career. Still, he’s getting the movement he wants and inducing plenty of weak contact. It’s a long season, so getting everyone else some extra rest isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Lewicki does not have a ton of major-league experience, and his start on Tuesday will be just the second of his career, with his first coming in 2017. In addition to that single start, he does have nine relief appearances including six this season. Between his little major-league experience and his minor-league track record, there doesn’t appear to be much that stands out about the 26-year-old righty. He is about average-to-slightly-below-average in all three of the true outcomes, and he’s allowed a .400 batting average on balls in play in his short 25-inning major-league career. He seems like the kind of pitcher against whom the Red Sox should rake, but we’ve seen many times that these kind of pop up pitchers can baffle lineups at times. Lewicki throws a mid-90s fastball to go with a slider and a curveball.
6/6: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Blaine Hardy, 7:10 PM ET
Rodriguez can be frustrating to watch at times, but we’re really seeing a good start to the season for Boston’s young lefty. He’s now made 11 starts this season and in that time he’s pitched to a 3.88 ERA (115 ERA+) with nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings. The problem, as much as there is a major issue, is command and efficiency. Rodriguez is walking three batters per nine innings and he’s allowed eight homers in his eleven starts. He’s also failed to last at least six full innings more often than not. That being said, he’s been very good of late with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts with 33 strikeouts and seven walks in 28 innings of work.
Hardy is a left-handed pitcher who has split his time between the bullpen and the rotation this year after serving solely as a reliever over the rest of his five-year career. Like Lewicki, there really isn’t a standout here, and Hardy relies on weak contact to have success in the majors. The southpaw doesn’t miss a ton of bats (seven strikeouts per nine), but he doesn’t walk too many batters and he has an extreme flyball tendency. That is a risky strategy, of course, especially against a Red Sox team that can hit home runs. If they keep the ball in the yard, however, the flyball style tends to reduce hits and baserunners in general. Boston should be able to take advantage of this matchup, but there’s sneaky potential here for a frustrating night. Hardy features a high-80s fastball along with a slider and a changeup.
6/7: Drew Pomeranz vs. Matt Boyd, 7:10 PM ET
On Thursday, Pomeranz will get another chance to turn around what’s been a very frustrating season for the lefty. He actually seemed solid his last time out, but that likely says more about how bad he’s been of late than anything else. In that last start, Pomeranz allowed four runs in five innings of work, but it was the first time he made it that deep into a start since May 8 against the Yankees. Pomeranz hasn’t really been great at anything, but the things to watch here are his fastball velocity and his willingness to attack opponents. Efficiency has not been Pomeranz’ strong suit.
Boyd is probably the best starting pitcher the Red Sox are going to see in this series, but that really says more about the rest of the competition than anything else, as the Red Sox are avoiding the top of Detroit’s rotation. Boyd, to be fair, has had some success this season, at least based purely on results. The lefty has pitched to a 3.23 ERA (138 ERA+) over his first 11 starts, though the peripherals tell a different story. With a below-average strikeout rate and middle-of-the-road walk and home run numbers, Boyd has a much more pedestrian 3.89 FIP and a bad 5.83 DRA. Like Hardy, Boyd is a flyball pitcher who can be exploited if the Red Sox can get a couple of balls to leave the yard. The southpaw throws a low-90s fastball to go with a slider and a curveball.
Victor Martinez was a blockbuster trade acquisition for the Red Sox back in 2009 and stayed for another All-Star season after that before leaving in free agency. One of the better hitters of his generation, the DH is certainly nearing the end of the road at this point and just isn’t the impact hitter he once was. This could be the final year of an impressive career.
Jose Iglesias was part of the deal that sent Jake Peavy to Boston in the summer of 2013, and the defensive wizard has been with Detroit ever since. Although his bat has shown some hot streaks it’s never really been what you want from a major-league starter, though his defense is good enough that you can live with it if you absolutely have to. Don’t be surprised if he gets traded this summer.
Alex Wilson was the often-forgotten throw-in in the Yoenis Cespedes-for-Rick Porcello deal, but he’s been a big part of Detroit’s bullpen for a few years now. He’s struggled for the last couple years, though, and he’s injured at the moment.
Notable Position Players
Miguel Cabrera is a first-ballot, inner-circle Hall of Famer and one of the very best hitters who has ever played the game. After a down 2017, he’s back to being productive this year even if it’s not to same level as before. The veteran still has great plate discipline and can hit for some power, though not as consistently as his prime.
Nick Castellanos has enjoyed a breakout season at the plate for Detroit despite a low walk rate. His .400 BABIP is certainly a big reason for it and not totally sustainable, but he has tremendous bat-to-ball skills and should be able to maintain an above-average BABIP along with solid power.
Jeimer Candelario is a young third baseman and has inserted himself into the lineup as an all-around presence at the plate.
Leonys Martin has come out of nowhere to make an impact in Detroit’s lineup this year by inexplicably turning into a legitimate power threat seemingly overnight.
James McCann is the Tigers primary catcher and although he’s certainly not a plus at the plate he won’t be a black hole for them either.
JaCoby Jones has been something close to a black hole for the Tigers this year as his aggressive approach hasn’t led to hits or good contact.
Shane Greene didn’t turn into the big-time starter the Tigers were hoping for when they sent Robbie Ray to the Diamondbacks and Didi Gregorius went to the Yankees, but he’s emerged as a good reliever and serves as their closer. He’s probably better suited as a setup man, but his groundball tendencies and strikeout ability are a good late-inning combo and it wouldn’t be surprised if he emerged as a trade candidate for the Red Sox this summer.
Joe Jimenez looks like Detroit’s potential future closer as the 23-year-old has big-time stuff (it’s better than his 9 K/9) and good control. He’s also coming up in trade rumors, but he’ll cost a haul and likely more than the Red Sox will be willing (or able) to spend at the trade deadline. For now, he’s a strong setup option in front of Greene.
For the first time in nearly a half-decade, the Tigers do not have a lefty in their bullpen. This is good news for a Red Sox team that struggles against southpaws.
Wilson, as mentioned above, is out for the moment. The righty has been out since early May with a foot injury but is expected to start a rehab assignment soon.
Daniel Norris had a rough start to the year in Detroit’s rotation before going down in April with a groin injury. He needed surgery and will be out until the second half.
Jordan Zimmermann has been out for about a month with a shoulder injury but the Tigers hope to get him back in a week or two.
Francisco Liriano has been out for about a week for a hamstring injury but he isn’t expected to miss much time.
Daniel Stumpf had an elbow scare last week but his MRI came back clean and he should return to the Tigers bullpen in a week or two.
Ryan Carpenter is a depth starter and he suffered a strained oblique in one of his recent spot starts.
The weather is going to get better as this series goes on, but Tuesday could be a miserable one. There are showers and rain in the forecast all day, though they should slow up and eventually stop around gametime. It’s still going to be raw and cloudy tonight. Wednesday isn’t going to be much warmer, but it should clear up by then. Thursday will be the warmest day of the series.