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ON DECK: Tigers return home to host the Rangers for weekend set

The Detroit Tigers once more gave us two hard-fought efforts in the mini two-game set with the Chicago Cubs. In fact, they held an early lead in both contests. Unfortunately, they were unable to hold onto either one and dropped both games at Wrigley Field.

UP NEXT

The Tigers (38-50) now return home for a four-game series with the Texas Rangers (38-49) before hitting the road once more to close out the first half of the regular season.

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By and large, Texas has been a more competitive club than their overall record would indicate. In fact, their current mark has a lot to do with their performance against the Astros and Angels. The Rangers are a combined 5-17 against those two West Division rivals (4-12 vs. HOU), putting them a game over .500 against other opposition.

While they have yet to win a game this month, Texas is coming off a 14-11 showing in June. They took two of three from the Tigers in Arlington back in May. The Rangers are one of the few teams who has had plenty of success in Detroit in recent years, winning four straight series and five out of six trips dating back to 2012.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Game 1 | Yovani Gallardo (Rangers) vs. Matthew Boyd (Tigers)

Yovani Gallardo (2-0, 9.00 ERA) is back in the majors, making his second stint with the Rangers. The 32-year-old started the year with the Cincinnati Reds before being DFA’d after three appearances. Texas picked him up on a minor league deal and made ten starts at Triple-A before being recalled. The 12-year veteran has a career 3.99 ERA in just over 300 games. Gallardo has a career 2.45 ERA in three starts vs. the Tigers.

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Matthew Boyd (4-6, 4.18 ERA) turned in a quality start of three runs over six innings against the Toronto Blue Jays his last time out. It closed out a bit of a roller coaster month in which he compiled a 6.32 ERA in six June starts. The seven strikeouts against the Jays were his most in a start since May 17. Conversely, he allowed a homer for a third straight start. Six of his nine homers allowed this season came in June.

Boyd did not pitch against Texas earlier this season but he has a career 5.53 ERA in five starts against the Rangers. He is, however, 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA in seven home starts this year.

Game 2 | Bartolo Colon (Rangers) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (Tigers)

Big Bart is still holding his own in the show. Bartolo Colon (5-5, 4.76 ERA) is fresh off a five-inning, three-run performance at home against the Chicago White Sox. He has only allowed one homer over his last three starts after yielding 19 gopher balls in his previous 14 appearances. Conversely, Colon only pitched into the seventh inning or later once in six June starts, compared to five such instances in nine April/May starts.

Colon pitched in the first meeting between these two teams, allowing three runs (two earned) over five innings of work.

Who would have thought that Jordan Zimmermann (3-0, 3.91 ERA) would be the Tigers’ best starter as of late, or at least one of them? Crazy, yes, but true. Zimmermann allowed one run over seven innings in Toronto his last time out. Over his last five starts (dating back to April 30), he has shaved nearly two runs off his season ERA. Zimmermann landed on the DL just before the Tigers’ series in Texas earlier this season so this will be his first crack at them in 2018. It will be just his second ever start against the Rangers and first since 2016.

Game 3 | Cole Hamels (Rangers) vs. Mike Fiers (Tigers)

Here is a battle of two guys whose names are bandied about in trade talks as of late. Lefty Cole Hamels (4-7, 4.05 ERA) is a seasoned vet with playoff experience that will surely garner attention from potential suitors. However, the 13-year big leaguer has struggled over his last couple starts, pitching to an ERA approaching 10.00 (11 ER in 10 IP). The seven earned runs in his last outing against the White Sox were a season-high. The Tigers missed Hamels last time, but Hamels has been solid in his career vs. Detroit (3.69 ERA in six starts).

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Mike Fiers (5-5, 3.79 ERA) turned in his best start of the season his last time out against the Blue Jays. It was the first time he had gone at least eight innings into a game since his no-hit performance in August of 2015 when he was a member of the Astros. Going back to May 30, Fiers has a 2.68 ERA spanning seven starts, allowing three runs or fewer in six of those. He will get a second look at the Rangers this season; tossing 5.1 innings and allowed two runs back on May 8.

Game 4 | Austin Bibens-Dirkx (Rangers) vs. Michael Fulmer (Tigers)

Austin Bibens-Dirkx (1-2, 4.40 ERA) is a guy who has seized opportunities to start games for the Rangers due to injuries and/or poor performances from others. The 33-year-old is in just his second major league season after finally breaking through in 2017. This is a guy who has paid his dues and is easy to root for, having pitched in 329 career minor league games since debuting as a professional in 2006. Bibens-Dirkx is his first 29 major league games (11 starts) has registered a 4.59 ERA.

As for Michael Fulmer (3-7, 4.22 ERA), the trade winds continue to swirl around the 25-year-old with each passing start. Fulmer got through six innings against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, with all three of the runs allowed coming in one inning, once again. It has been a bugaboo for Fulmer all season long, opposing lineups are posting a .924 OPS the third time facing the big righty.

The same thing happened to Fulmer when he faced Texas back on May 7. He allowed just a solo shot and three total baserunners through the first five innings before the Rangers ambushed him for four runs in the sixth.

HITTERS TO WATCH

Texas is hitting under .240 as a team in 2018 but the average is over .280 in the last two weeks. And it is a veteran in Shin-Soo Choo that has helped spark. The 35-year-old Choo has enjoyed a fine bounce-back season, posting by far his best slash line (.289/.399/.494) in his now five seasons with the Rangers. The .893 OPS is his highest since 2008 when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians.

Oh, and Choo has reached base safely in 44 straight games, hitting .335 with an OPS over 1.000 in that span.

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Niko Goodrum has established himself as an everyday player at second base for the Tigers in recent weeks; his surge effectively sparked the team the designate Dixon Machado for assignment late Wednesday night. Goodrum in the final four games of the team’s recent six-game road trip went 8 for 16 with three doubles, a triple, and four runs scored., including his first ever four-hit game to jump-start that stretch.

SERIES INFO

  • Game 1 | Thur, July 5 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 2 | Fri, July 6 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 3 | Sat, July 7 @ 4:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 4 | Sun, July 8 @ 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.

[CAN’T MISS: Click here to view our “End of June” report on the Tigers’ minor league prospects]

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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