It was another series of missed chances for the Detroit Tigers this week, against the Texas Rangers down in Arlington. Detroit dropped two out of three in the series, losing the rubber match on a walk-off blast from Texas’ Nomar Mazara (who we highlighted in our series preview).
The Tigers had constant trouble cashing in runs in their prior series against Kansas City. Those struggles followed them down to Globe Life Park. In the series against the Rangers, Detroit left 27 runners on base and hit just .121 (4 for 33) with runners in scoring position.
For their entire seven-game road trip, in which they finished 2-5, they left 64 guys on base and posted a .169 batting average w/ RISP. Add in the growing list of injuries, most recently to center fielder and leadoff man Leonys Martín, and Detroit is basically fielding a Triple-A-caliber club these days.
The Tigers (15-21) now return home to kick off a six-game homestand, beginning with a Mother’s Day weekend series against the Seattle Mariners (20-15). It’ll also begin a stretch of playing the M’s seven times in a 10-day period.
Many are wondering if this is the year that Seattle finally busts through and clinches a playoff spot for the first time since 2001, which is the longest active playoff drought among any club in the four major North American sports associations. There’s no shortage of threats in their lineup but, as seemingly always is the case, it will come down to their starting pitching.
The Mariners last season took six of seven games from the Tigers, including two out of three played at Comerica Park. It was their first season series win over Detroit since 2014.
Game 1 | Marco Gonzales (Mariners) vs. Matthew Boyd (Tigers)
Marco Gonzales (3-2, 5.19 ERA) is in his first full season with Seattle after coming over mid-season in a trade last year from the St. Louis Cardinals. The 26-year-old is still trying to find some stability as a big leaguer, having only made 29 career appearances (21 starts) since debuting in 2014. Gonzales, a former Tommy John surgery recipient, seems to have a rotation spot locked down for the time being, and will make his eighth start of the year on Friday.
As for Matthew Boyd (1-3, 3.00 ERA), he will look to continue what has been an encouraging start in 2018. Boyd his last time out tied a season-high in innings (seven) and pitches (102) in a loss to the Kansas City Royals. All four of his runs allowed came in the first three frames of that start as he finished strong. This will be Boyd’s first career start vs. Seattle. His lone appearance against the M’s came in relief back in 2016.
Game 2 | Felix Hernandez (Mariners) vs. Michael Fulmer (Tigers)
Hard to believe Félix Hernández (4-3, 5.28 ERA) is still just 32 years of age. The 14-year veteran has struggled to re-invent himself after being among the game’s dominant pitchers for a long stretch of his career. Hernández from 2009-15 registered a 2.83 ERA, was a 6-time All-Star, collecting a Cy Young Award in 2010 and three other times finished in the top-5 of voting. He has a career 2.79 ERA in 16 starts vs. the Tigers.
Michael Fulmer (1-2, 3.51 ERA) was pitching beautifully in his last start against Texas on Monday, having allowed just a solo homer as the only hit through five innings. But everything unraveled in the sixth when the Rangers ambushed him for four runs and chased him after 5.2 IP. And now with a recent report of the Tigers being prepared to engage in trade talks (but not actively shop) regarding Fulmer, we could be entering each of his starts wondering if it is his last in a Detroit uniform.
Game 3 | James Paxton (Mariners) vs. Blaine Hardy (Tigers)
It is hard to find a hotter pitcher than James Paxton (2-1, 3.40 ERA). Fresh off the sport’s third no-hitter (already?) of the season in Toronto, the Canadian turned in a 16-strikeout performance in his previous start. But let’s be honest, those pale in comparison to having this happen to you pregame.
All jokes aside, Paxton has the makeup to be a front-line starter, but health has been his biggest concern thus far in his career. His 24 starts made in 2017 was a career-high.
Complete contrary to who the Mariners will send out on Mother’s Day, the Tigers will counter with Blaine Hardy. The 31-year-old will be making his first career major league start after 164 relief appearances with Detroit. With the recent injuries to Daniel Norris and Jordan Zimmermann, there are opportunities in the rotation. Hardy has been up and down between the majors and Triple-A Toledo this season. The last four of his seven appearances for the Mud Hens were starts and brilliant ones at that. In those four starts, he allowed just two runs in 21.1 IP, including seven innings of one-run ball and 10 strikeouts on April 29.
HITTERS TO WATCH
Oh, great, notable Tiger killer Nelson Cruz is back. *slaps self in face* What could possibly go wrong? *slaps self again* The “Boomstick” has long given Tigers fans nightmare for his seemingly timely big hits to sink Detroit, regardless of the time of year. The now 37-year-old Cruz has been especially brutal against the Tigers since the start of 2016, a .385 clip (20 for 52) with 10 extra-base hits and 14 RBI.
The Tigers recalled outfielder Mikie Mahtook on Wednesday prior to their season finale against the Rangers, after placing Leonys Martín on the DL. Mahtook in his return to the majors went 1 for 4 with a triple and a sac fly RBI, starting in left field. That came on the heels after hitting .327 in his previous 13 games with Toledo, following a sluggish start. Mahtook called it a”gut punch” when he was optioned back in April and now says he is “not planning on ever leaving again” now that he is back.
- Game 1 | Fri, May 11 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
- Game 2 | Sat, May 12 @ 4:10 p.m. ET
- Game 3 | Sun, May 13 @ 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.