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Red Sox at Tigers Series Preview

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The Red Sox take on the Tigers this week in Detroit for a three-game set.

Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Bless You Boys

The opponent in one sentence

The Tigers, while out of the race, are a better team than most people think and have actually been over .500 in each of the last three months.

Record

51-57

Head-to-head record

Red Sox 2, Tigers 1

Trend

Up, but only a little. The Tigers were the hottest team in baseball coming out of the break, winning their first seven games. they followed that up with four straight losses, however, and more recently have righted the ship again, winning four of their last six. Both of those losses did come against the Orioles this past weekend.

Pitching Matchups

8/3: Garrett Richards vs. Wily Peralta, 7:10 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)

One of the hopes for many Red Sox fans last week as we approached the trade deadline was that the team acquired another starter so Richards would be knocked out of the rotation. Chris Sale’s return still may do just that, but for now he continues to start. It’s been a slog for him over the last couple of months, to put it nicely, with an ERA of 7.43 over his last eight starts, only racking up 22 strikeouts in 36 13 innings. He’s just been entirely too hittable since the crackdown on sticky stuff, and while Tanner Houck has his own issues to work out with respect to a third pitch, it’s pretty difficult to make a case for Richards over Houck right now, never mind Sale. If the former is still starting when the latter comes back, that’s a major knock against this coaching staff.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox - Game One Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Peralta had spent much of the early parts of his career as a middling back-end starter in the Brewers organization before converting into the bullpen with the Royals. After one solid season, he took a step back in 2019, eventually being designated for assignment and not signing with anyone in 2020. The veteran righty started this season in Triple-A with the Tigers, eventually making his way back into a major-league starting role in June, where he’s pitched pretty well. Peralta has a 3.64 ERA, though his peripherals suggest that is more than two runs too low. He won’t miss many bats, and is reliant on weak contact. Given how badly the Red Sox are going with runners on base right now, this is the type of matchup that could feasibly end in very frustrating fashion. Peralta will feature a pair of low-to-mid-90s fastballs, a slider, and a splitter.

8/4: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Casey Mize, 7:10 PM ET

It’s probably prisoner-of-the-moment syndrome taking over, but this start coming up for Rodriguez feels as big as it’s gotten for any Red Sox pitcher this year. The team not grabbing any rotation depth feels like a vote of confidence in the southpaw, who totally blew up his last time out after starting off the second half so well. The Red Sox probably need him to be their number two, but at the very least he has to look like someone they can trust in the postseason. For a lot of this year, he’s had some tough luck outings that have hurt his numbers, but in his last start against Toronto he was just straight-up beat, pushing his season ERA up to 5.60. He needs to attack the zone and miss bats, and in the process hopefully find his mojo again.

Mize is one of the tenants of this Tigers rebuild, having been selected with the number one overall pick back in 2018. He didn’t really spend much time at all in the minors, making it up to the bigs for his debut last summer. He’s spent his entire season so far in 2021 up here as well, pitching to a nice 3.41 ERA, though like Peralta the peripherals suggest he should be doing worse. The righty looked like he had some nasty stuff coming out of college, but he’s really posted a middling strikeout rate this year, instead relying on command and control. The Tigers are watching his pitch count closely this year, so the Red Sox should be looking to work counts and make good on balls in play to potentially get into this bullpen early. They struggled against Mize earlier this year, scoring just one run over six innings despite walking more than they struck out. The righty will feature a slider, a mid-90s four-seam, a low-to-mid-90s two-seam, a splitter, and a curveball.

8/5: Martín Pérez vs. Tarik Skubal, 1:10 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)

Pérez is, in a way, lucky Richards is here, as he’s been struggling a bit of late too but not to the extreme of his rotation mate. The southpaw is coming off a really bad start his last time out in Tampa when he allowed six runs, and he allowed three in each of his previous three starts before that. Three runs doesn’t sound terrible until you realize he went four or fewer innings in two of those starts. The long ball has been the big issue for Pérez of late, as he’s allowed seven over this four-start stretch. If he can keep the ball in the yard, he can at least be competitive. But that’s not as easy a task as it may sound. He did keep Detroit in the yard back in May, allowing three runs (two earned) over 5 23 innings, striking out six and walking two.

Skubal is another big part of this Tigers rebuild, not coming into the organization as highly touted but graduating as a top 25 prospect in some circles. It’s not hard to see where those rankings come from, though he’s still a bit raw around the edges. Skubal will miss a ton of bats, coming in with a much higher strikeout rate than we see from the other guys slated to start for Detroit this week. On the other hand, his control can be shaky and he has been hit hard, and over the fence, a lot. Skubal has allowed 25 homers in his 21 starts this season, including six over his last two. If he keeps the ball in the yard, he typically has success, so the Red Sox need to be hunting mistakes and not letting him get ahead in counts where he can really show off the stuff. The rookie will feature a pair of mid-90s fastballs to go with a slider and a changeup, as well as some occasional other secondaries.

Baltimore Orioles v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Old Friends

None.

Notable Position Players

Miguel Cabrera has, for the most part this year, looked more like an aging slugger than one of the very best hitters of his generation. That said, he’s been much better recently and really since the weather has warmed up. He’s three homers away from 500 for his career and 58 hits away from number 3000 in his career.

Jonathan Schoop was a popular potential target for many Red Sox fans, but ultimately stayed in Detroit. He’s going to swing at nearly everything, but he’ll put a decent number of balls in play, and this year he’s done so with a lot of solid contact.

Akil Baddoo has been a major Rule 5 Draft success story, combining patience, athleticism and power to be the most valuable Tigers position player so far this year by fWAR.

Robbie Grossman has been a quietly solid free agent addition. He won’t hit for a high average, but he’ll draw walks and show some pop.

Eric Hasse came out of nowhere for a huge June and July, masking some strikeout issues with big-time power to the tune of an Isolated Power (SLG - AVG) over .300.

Jeimer Candelario once looked like a promising young hitter in this lineup, and while he’s having a good season this year it’s been more about getting on base (with some BABIP help as well) than about his power.

Willi Castro has just not really been able to get much of anything going at the bottom of this Detroit lineup this year.

Zack Short hasn’t played a ton and is being hurt by his high strikeout rate, but also draws some walk and has a little bit of pop into which he can tap.

Derek Hill only has 66 plate appearances, but he’s done a good job of balancing walks and strikeouts to mask a lack of power in the small sample.

Bullpen Snapshot

José Cisnero is part of an underrated three-headed monster at the back of this Detroit bullpen. The righty will get his share of strikeouts, allowing him to work around control issues that can pop up now and again.

Gregory Soto is basically the same kind of pitcher as Cisnero, just throwing from the other side and with slightly worse control issues.

Michael Fulmer was once a highly touted starter, but injuries have forced him to the bullpen, where he has thrived aside from some home run issues here and there.

Injuries

Matthew Boyd was another potential trade candidate on this Tigers roster, but some arm issues crept up in June and he’s unlikely to get back into a game for at least another few weeks.

Spencer Turnbull got off to a big start in the Tigers rotation this year, but also went down with an arm injury in June and just recently had to undergo Tommy John surgery, which will keep him out for most of next season as well.

Niko Goodrum had been out with a calf injury, but has started his rehab and could be back as soon as this series.

Isaac Paredes is also potentially going to be ready to be back for this series after missing time with a hip injury.

Julio Teheran has been working his way back from an arm injury, but is likely at least still a few weeks away.

José Ureña hit the IL with a groin injury last month and is unlikely to see any action until the end of this month.

Jake Rogers hit the injured list a couple weeks ago with an arm injury, and his expected return date has since been pushed back to September.

Daz Cameron hurt his toe in early July, but is close to working his way back.

Weather Forecast

Weather shouldn’t be any factor in the first couple of games in this series, but could result in a delay for Thursday. Neither team is traveling too far, so they should be able to tolerate some delay if necessary.


A big thank you to FanGraphs, and particularly their Roster Resource tool, as well as Baseball Savant for research.