How about them Motor City Kitties? Despite a 6-0 loss in the series finale against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, the Detroit Tigers picked up their first series win over the Tribe in six tries. Their 6-3 victory in Game 1 on Monday also snapped an 11-game slide against their American League Central division rivals.
The Tigers (19-23) now pack their bags and head west to kick off a seven-game road trip, beginning with four games against the Seattle Mariners (24-18). A small fraction of me just wanted to recycle our series preview between these two clubs from last week but we’re better than that here at Detroit Sports Nation. No lazy journalism here from yours truly.
Not much has happened surrounding Seattle in terms of play on the field since they left town with a series loss. They returned home and took care of business against their AL West rival Texas Rangers. The biggest news dominating the sport revolved around second baseman Robinson Canó, who was suspended for 80 games by Major League Baseball for violation of the sport’s drug prevention and treatment program. Canó, who was off to one of his better starts in his decorated, Hall-of-Fame-caliber career, was placed on the disabled list on Monday after being hit by a pitch in the hand on Sunday against the Tigers.
The Tigers have dropped seven straight games at Safeco Field dating back to the start of the 2016 season. Their last series win in the Pacific Northwest came back in 2015.
Game 1 | Matthew Boyd (Tigers) vs. Marco Gonzales (Mariners)
If this pitching matchup looks familiar because we’ve seen it before, then you are correct. This is a carbon copy matchup of Game 1 from the series between these two teams in Detroit last weekend.
Marco Gonzales (3-3, 5.31 ERA) made his first career start against Detroit in the front end of that Saturday doubleheader at Comerica Park, and now he will see them for the second time in as many starts. The 26-year-old lefty allowed four runs on a season-high 10 hits, taking the loss, but did go six innings for a fourth straight start.
Fellow southpaw Matthew Boyd (2-3, 3.21 ERA) will make a homecoming of sorts on Thursday to open this series. The native of Mercer Island, Washington — just a short 15-ish minute drive outside of Seattle — and Oregon State product pitched into the seventh against the M’s his last time out, officially going 6+ innings and being charged with three earned runs. This will be his second time pitching at Safeco and his first start.
Game 2 | Michael Fulmer (Tigers) vs. Felix Hernandez (Mariners)
I promise that we did not just copy and paste last week’s series preview. The probable starters for Game 2 in this series mirror Game 2 in the series at Comerica.
Michael Fulmer (1-3, 4.37 ERA) did not have his best stuff from the get-go against Seattle in his last start. A 31-pitch first inning ultimately set the tone for his second-shortest outing of the year (4.1 IP), allowing six earned runs for the second time in eight starts. This will be Fulmer’s second career start at Safeco Field, he tossed seven innings of two-run ball in his 2016 rookie campaign.
Can you be a grizzled vet at age 32? Maybe when you are in your 14th major league season like Félix Hernández (5-3, 5.66 ERA) is, that moniker applies. Hernández will toe the slab against the team he made his major league debut against for the second time in less than a week. He managed to pick up a win in that last outing against the Tigers but his ERA sits a tick over 7.00 spanning his last three times out.
Game 3 | Mike Fiers (Tigers) vs. James Paxton (Mariners)
Mike Fiers (4-2, 4.23 ERA) was very solid in his last start against the Indians, allowing just one run on three hits over six innings logged, against a Cleveland offense that averaged eight runs per game in their previous four contests. He’ll make his fourth career start in Seattle, making one in each of the previous three seasons, where he has a 4.60 ERA lifetime at Safeco.
The Tigers managed to somewhat slow down a red-hot James Paxton (2-1, 3.52 ERA) on Mother’s Day. On the heels of a no-hitter in Toronto, Detroit snapped a streak of 18 scoreless frames from the Big Maple, helping spark a series finale win at home. Paxton will make his just fourth start at home, where he carries nearly the same ERA (3.57) in less than half the amount of innings (17.2) as he’s compiled on the road (3.50 ERA in 36.o IP).
Game 4 | Francisco Liriano (Tigers) vs. Wade LeBlanc (Mariners)
Francisco Liriano (3-1, 4.03 ERA) was rocky once more. A first-inning grand slam against the Indians on Tuesday spurned what led to a second straight start failing to get through five innings. Liriano has now yielded eight runs on 11 hits in his last two outings, issuing more walks (7) than tickets punched (6). An encouraging sign for the Tigers? He holds a career 2.53 ERA in seven games (five starts) in Seattle.
The Mariners will be turning to journeyman Wade LeBlanc (0-0, 2.51 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday. The 33-year-old LeBlanc has appeared in 184 games (82 starts) in parts of 10 seasons for what is now seven different clubs. The Mariners have used him in the rotation in place of the injured Erasmo Ramirez and has been terrific, allowing just one run over 15 innings spanning three starts.
HITTERS TO WATCH
A number of Tigers have taken advantage of the”next man up” opportunity with the myriad of injuries in the month of May. Utility man Niko Goodrum has arguably been the most successful in said chances. A 1-for-3 showing on Wednesday against Cleveland extended Goodrum’s hit streak to a modest six games dating back to May 8 in Texas. He is 10 for 23 in that stretch, with five extra-base hits and six RBI.
While the long-term absence of Robinson Canó could be detrimental to the Mariners’ playoff hopes, they still boast a pretty potent offense. Having said that, some guys in the meat of the order will need to step up and help fill the void. One middle-of-the-order bat to watch for is third baseman Kyle Seager. The 30-year-old Gold Glove winner has gotten off to a bit of a slow start in terms of average (.241 in 42 games) but he’s on pace to finish around his 162-game averages of 25 homers and 86 RBI.
- Game 1 | Thur, May 17 @ 10:10 p.m. ET
- Game 2 | Fri, May 18 @ 10:10 p.m. ET
- Game 3 | Sat, May 19 @ 9:10 p.m. ET
- Game 4 | Sun, May 20 @ 4:10 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.