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ON DECK: Tigers bring in scuffling Blue Jays for weekend series

So this #RallyGoose thing is going to stick around, eh?

The Detroit Tigers, outside of one game in the series, look quite impressive in their three wins against the Los Angeles Angels this week. It secured their first series win over the Halos since April 2014, having gone 0-6-1 in their last seven tries against Anaheim.

However, the series win came at a price of health. Detroit had to place two more pitchers — starter Francisco Liriano and reliever Daniel Stumpf — on the disabled list this week. They also saw lefty Ryan Carpenter, who started in place of Liriano on Thursday, depart the game early with an oblique strain as well as Jeimer Candelario with what they are calling a left-hand contusion after being hit by a pitch.

UP NEXT

Winners in five of their last seven games, the Tigers (26-30) continue their lengthy homestand with a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays (26-31). Our friends to the north got off to a nice 12-5 start, aided by a 3.79 team ERA in that span. But the wheels have fallen off since then.

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Offensively, they are a poster child for the three true outcomes in baseball this season. The Blue Jays are one of two clubs in the sport (Texas) to rank in the top 10 in home runs (69, T-6th), walks (201, T-5th), and strikeouts (511, T-6th). In their defense, they are without a few key contributors in the lineup — Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, to name a couple.

Remember how we talked about the Tigers’ long history of woes against the Angels prior to that series? Well, that can also apply to Toronto. Since 2000, the Tigers’ .425 win percentage against the Blue Jays ranks as the third-lowest against any single opponent. The two teams split their season series last year, snapping a streak of three straight years where it was in favor of the Jays. Detroit has also won three straight series at home against their Canadian brethren.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Game 1 | Jaime García (Blue Jays) vs. Blaine Hardy (Tigers)

Lefty Jaime García (2-3, 5.52 ERA) was signed in February to fill out the Toronto rotation for the season. The 10-year veteran has a career 3.77 ERA in 194 games (183 starts). However, it has been a bit of a rough go for the soon-to-be 32-year-old over the last couple seasons. García has a 4.55 ERA since the start of 2016 with four different clubs, including three teams last year alone. No stranger to injuries, his most recent start was his first after a DL stint and it was probably his best of the year so far: a season-high seven innings of one-run ball.

Fellow lefty Blaine Hardy (1-0, 2.70 ERA) continues to give the Tigers some quality outings and chances to win ball games. Hardy had without question the best of his three starts his last time out against the White Sox, surrendering just one run on three hits, posting career-highs in innings (7) and strikeouts (6). The 31-year-old now has a 2.76 ERA across his three starts and, especially more so with recent injuries to the Tigers’ rotation, will continue to go out there and prove his worth as a starter.

Game 2 | J.A. Happ (Blue Jays) vs. Matthew Boyd (Tigers)

More lefties! Isn’t this exciting?? Detroit will get a look at J.A. Happ (7-3, 3.84 ERA), who has easily been the Blue Jays’ top starter early on this season. The 35-year-old has allowed just four runs over his last three starts combined (20.2 IP), shaving nearly a whole run off his season ERA mark. He has also fanned 23 batters versus just five walks in that span. Happ has enjoyed a career revival in recent years and he is expected to be among the hottest pitching commodities in trade talks as the season progresses, especially with him becoming a free agent in the winter.

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Matthew Boyd (3-4, 3.00 ERA) turned in his first scoreless outing of the season against the Angels on Memorial Day, despite matching a season-high 102 pitches to get through just five innings plus one batter in the sixth. While it was encouraging to see him make his next start on schedule following an early departure in the start prior due to an oblique spasm, Boyd has not quite been as sharp in back-to-back outings. He has only scattered three hits to opposing batters but has issued seven walks. Now he faces the team he began his professional career with for the fourth time since being shipped to Detroit in 2015 (3.86 ERA vs. TOR).

Game 3 | Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays) vs. Michael Fulmer (Tigers)

Many around the industry viewed Aaron Sanchez (2-5, 4.77 ERA) as the future ace in Toronto, and that still may be the case for the 25-year-old. But since his All-Star campaign in 2016 when he led the American League in ERA (3.00) and win percentage (15-2, .882%), Sanchez has taken a step back. A lot of it has been injury-plagued, he was limited to just eight starts last season after having consistent blister problems. But he appears to be healthy enough now as he works in a different arsenal of pitches these days. Sanchez has made three prior starts against the Tigers since 2016, registering a sub-2.00 ERA.

A massive understatement, yes, Detroit really needs to get Michael Fulmer (2-4, 4.60 ERA) going as soon as possible. Regardless of his future, whether it be with the Tigers or another club via trade, it is of the utmost importance that he is pitching at or close to ace-like status. Fulmer against the Angels in his last start had his second-shortest outing this year, going just 3.1 innings and yielding five runs, the fourth time already in which he has allowed 5+ runs in a start this year. He had six such starts all of last season. It also closed out a dreadful May for Fulmer (6.32 ERA in six starts).

Perhaps a turn of the calendar and seeing a favorable opponent will help jump-start a turnaround. Fulmer has a 2.56 ERA in 10 career June starts, the lowest mark in any month for him. He also has previous success against the Blue Jays (2-0, 0.64 ERA in two starts vs. TOR).

HITTERS TO WATCH

Anyone who follows baseball closely knows that Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar is among the better defenders at that position, if not the best. He has an incredible 58 defensive runs saved since the start of 2015. This year, however, Pillar has become a little more of a power threat offensively. He already has 20 doubles to pace the AL, which has helped elevate his career-high slugging (.444) and OPS (.759). The 29-year-old has scuffled lately, though, he is just 4 for his last 38 over a 12-game stretch.

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Some rare good news on the injury front for the Tigers, first baseman Miguel Cabrera is expected to be activated from the DL ahead of the series opener on Friday. Detroit got some strong yeoman’s work from backup catcher John Hicks at first base, but it will be good to see the big fella back in the lineup. Cabrera last played on May 3 against Kansas City before departing with a hamstring problem. He’ll be inserted into a Detroit lineup that has been slashing .289/.358/.464 through the first seven games of their current homestand.

SERIES INFO

  • Game 1 | Fri, June 1 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 2 | Sat, June 2 @ 4:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 3 | Sun, June 3 @ 1:10 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.

Written by Alex Muller

MSU Graduate. Just a city boy born and raised in south Detroit. Baseball is life, a pitcher at heart. Freelance writer for MIPrepZone (News-Herald, Press & Guide).

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