Series Preview – Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago Cubs
After some how managing to snatch two games away from the Reds this weekend, the Tigers move onto Chicago. This time, however, they won’t be heading to U.S. Cellular Field. Instead, they’ll be heading to the other side of town to take on the Cubs, as interleague play continues on. The Cubs are horrible this year, so if the Tigers can’t take at least two games (and possibly sweep), then there really may be no hope left for this team. Will the pitching matchups be conducive to success? Let’s find out.
Tuesday – 6/12/12
Max Scherzer vs. Paul Maholm
Scherzer’s string of decent starts was finally snapped in his last outing, when he gave up five earned runs and took a loss against the Cleveland Indians. Luckily, the Cubs could be exactly the team that Max needs to pitch against to get his mojo back on the right track. He’s only pitched once against the Cubs (despite having played in the National League with Arizona for a few years), and in that game he has a spotless ERA. Will that be the case this time around? Given Max’s pitching as of late, and his propensity for the home run ball, probably not. But if he can manage six or seven innings with minimal run damage, then there’s no reason to think that he won’t get a win. The biggest problem in the Cubs’ lineup will be David DeJesus. During his time with the Royals, DeJesus became something of a “Tiger Killer.” He can put up the most average numbers a position player could ever have each season, but whenever he plays against Detroit, he has like four hits, two home runs, and 30 RBIs. Every time.
The Tigers have seen Maholm a couple of times over the years (during his time with Pittsburgh), but haven’t had much success against him. With only a 2.38 ERA against Detroit, Maholm has clearly pitched very well against them whenever he’s started. Unfortunately, at 0-1 in those two games, he’s probably been unfortunate enough to pitch against Justin Verlander in both those games (because I can’t think of anyone else in recent years that could have pitched against Maholm and kept the team in the game long enough to score some runs), meaning that despite his sparkling numbers, he’s been outdueled. No one other than Prince Fielder has had any real looks at him, and Prince is only hitting .140 in 43 at-bats. So it’s going to be on everyone else to put up the hits and get the win.
Wednesday – 6/13/12
Rick Porcello vs. Matt Garza
Rick continued his trend in his last start of giving up an obscene number of hits, but only a few runs. He’s still looking for his first win since early May, though. What Rick needs to work on here in his next couple starts (with the Cubs and Rockies as the opponents) is to keep the pitch count down and go deeper into games. Every aspect of this Tigers team is currently plagued by injury, and the bullpen pieces need a little rest. Rick has barely worked into the sixth inning over the last month, and hasn’t gone beyond that since May 1st. Chicago could be the right team for the job, though. With a career 3.60 ERA against the Cubs, Rick could use it as a chance to keep the hit total down and go deep into the game. Of course (as if it were really a surprise), DeJesus rocks him as well, which will undoubtedly translate into three earned runs and four hits for the day.
Matt Garza tricked a lot of people in 2008 and 2010. In those seasons, he had a winning record in Tampa Bay, which led a lot of people to believe that he was exceptionally good. He was the Number Two starter in the Tampa rotation, but that’s really not saying much. Other than James Shields those years, the rotation was nothing special. It just so happened that that was the time when the Rays started putting together the whole baseball package, and became a force to be reckoned with in the A.L. East. But Garza really isn’t that good. He has a career ERA of nearly 4.00, which isn’t bad (especially since he spent most of his career in the American League). What does hurt him, though, is that he’s 1-5 with a 4.60 ERA against the Tigers in his career. For whatever reason, Detroit always seems to have his number for about five runs or so. That’s not what you want to see if you’re Garza, especially when you’re already giving up four runs per start during this season.
Thursday – 6/14/12
Justin Verlander vs. Travis Wood
Verlander is still searching for win #6 this season, having three losses and a no decision in his last four starts. At least he gave up considerably fewer runs in his last start. He still has a chance of repeating his success from 2011 (though it’s unlikely he’ll get those kind of numbers again, but fans can dream), and could easily find his groove against a struggling Cubs team. There’s no one I’d rather see pitching for a possible sweep. He’s only seen the Cubs once, though, but has a 1.59 ERA in that game. Justin is also in search of his first major league hit. He almost had it against the Reds, but it still eludes him. Hopefully this is the game, because it may be his last chance this season.
Travis Wood has never pitched against the Tigers, but Prince Fielder owns him in limited at-bats. Wood is still looking for his first win of the season, too. With an ERA near five so far, he’s going to have to pitch the game of his life if he wants to find that win this time.
Game 1: Tigers
Game 2: Tigers
Game 3: Tigers
Final: Tigers sweep the series 3-0
I know that a sweep is a lot to ask of this team right now. But if ever there was a series where a series where it was possible, this is it. Terry Francona and the other ESPN announcers said it best during Sunday Night Baseball: that win on Sunday could be the game where you look back on the season and say that’s where the Tigers turned everything around. Coming off of that come-from-behind victory, hearing the Great American Ballpark alive with “Let’s Go Tigers!” chants, could very well be the exact thing that pushes this team into a victorious season. This series in Chicago and the next series at home versus the Rockies will prove whether or not that’s the case. These are two teams that are struggling mightily this season, and a team that is supposed to have the potential to own its division should defeat both with little effort. So it’s now or never to begin the march to .500, and to the top of the division.