The Detroit Tigers had a chance to pick up their second straight series win on Sunday and improve to .500 on the young season. Unfortunately, the bullpen imploded on multiple occasions, resulting in an 8-5 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
Still, Detroit (9-11) is playing some rather spirited and scrappy baseball, if you’re into that sort of thing. Although, they have taken advantage of some less-than-stellar play from their opposition. All nine of their wins have come from teams — Royals, White Sox, and Orioles — that are collectively 30 games under .500 to start the season.
The Tigers now hit the road for six games, beginning with three in the Steel City. The Pirates (12-10) swept Detroit to open this season back in March and used that to cruise out to an 11-4 start. But they have scuffled a bit since then, dropping six of their last even and losing All-Star second baseman Josh Harrison for multiple weeks due to injury along the way.
Detroit has made at least one trip out to Pittsburgh since the 2011 season, having had the Buccos on their schedule every year since 2009. In those 17 games at PNC Park, the Tigers are just 6-11, including losses in both affairs last season.
GAME 1 | Jordan Zimmermann (Tigers) vs. Chad Kuhl (Pirates)
Detroit is using their scheduled off day on Monday to shuffle around a couple of their starters, so Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 7.71 ERA) will get the ball in Game 1 for the Tigers. Zimmermann his last time out allowed four runs on seven hits over 5.1 innings against Baltimore, surrendering three home runs. Excluding his start against Cleveland, he’s allowed 4+ runs in all three of his other outings, including on Opening Day against these Pirates (ND, 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, BB, 8 K).
Chad Kuhl (2-1, 4.57 ERA) has been up and down through his first four outings for the Pirates. However, his two best starts of the season have come at home (3 ER in 11 IP at PNC Park). Kuhl’s first win of the season came against the Tigers back on April 1, when Detroit got him for four runs over 5.2 innings of work.
GAME 2 | Matthew Boyd (Tigers) vs. Jameson Taillon (Pirates)
Contrary to what his win-loss record says, Matthew Boyd (0-1, 1.40) has turned in three very solid starts. He’s been the unfortunate victim of little to no run support. Here is this near historical nugget on Boyd: he is the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1994 to go at least six innings of and allow one run or fewer in his first three starts, and not record a win.
Jameson Taillon (2-1, 2.86 ERA) appears to be the undisputed ace of the future for the Pirates. The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft really struggled his last time out, failing to get through two innings against the Phillies. Prior to that, he looked dominant in pitching 15 scoreless frames spanning two starts. This will be Taillon’s first career start against the Tigers.
GAME 3 | Michael Fulmer (Tigers) vs. Iván Nova (Pirates)
Tigers ace Michael Fulmer (1-2, 3.47 ERA) bounced back from a disastrous performance against the Indians with a solid seven innings of two-run ball against the Royals this past weekend. Fulmer mowed down the Pirates in his first start this year, albeit in a losing decision, allowing just one run over eight innings.
The Pirates’ Iván Nova (2-1, 4.20 ERA) has gotten off to a better start than some may suggest, particularly over his last three times out. Nova has struck out 18 batters and walked none during that span, helping elevate his own unusually-high (again, albeit early) 6.25 K:BB ratio. The Tigers let him off the hook a bit on Opening Day, Nova was only charged with two runs over five innings, despite loading the bases in the first inning.
HITTERS TO WATCH
Tigers catcher James McCann appears to be perking up a bit at the dish. Another hit for McCann on Sunday now extends his hitting streak to six games overall (8 for 22, 2B, HR, 4 RBI in that streak). He also went 3 for 9 with a double and three RBI in two games against the Pirates earlier this season.
It’s more fitting now that the Pirates acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson because they have made off like bandits and cashed in on the trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Dickerson has been Pittsburgh’s best hitter so far, hitting .303 in 19 games played, and that is despite getting just three knocks in his last 19 at-bats. He went just 1 for 10 in two games against the Tigers earlier this year.
- Game 1 | Tues, April 24 @ 7:05 p.m. ET
- Game 2 | Wed, April 25 @ 7:05 p.m. ET
- Game 3 | Thur, April 26 @ 12:35 p.m. ET*
All games can be seen on Fox Sports Detroit unless otherwise noted. Be sure to check your local listings for regional radio broadcasts.
*Can be seen on MLB Network (out-of-market only)