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ON DECK: Tigers and Royals clash in Detroit to open AL Central play

It took a while due to predictably unpredictable late March weather in Michigan, but the Detroit Tigers have concluded their first regular season series of 2018. From a fireworks-filled Opening Day to an Easter Sunday doubleheader, Detroit starts the season 0-3 for the first time in 10 years.

The Tigers hit .241 as a team in the three games vs. Pittsburgh but had plenty of missed opportunities in three close games, leaving 26 men on base in the series. The Pirates’ offense hit .284 and yielded 22 runs against the Detroit pitching staff.

UP NEXT

Detroit now kick-starts divisional play on Monday with the Kansas City Royals paying a visit to Comerica Park for a three-game set and the first of 19. The Tigers went 8-11 against the Royals in 2017 and are just 24-33 over the last three seasons.

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Kansas City was one of the more intriguing teams this offseason with their championship “core” of players all entering free agency. They ended up losing Eric Hosmer (Padres) and Lorenzo Cain (Brewers) to lucrative deals but managed to retain shortstop Alcides Escobar and third baseman Mike Moustakas on one-year fliers. The Royals also added a pair of veterans in outfielder Jon Jay and first baseman Lucas Duda to the fold.

Kansas City had their series finale with the Chicago White Sox postponed on Sunday, so they come into Detroit more rested than normal.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

GAME 1 | Jason Hammel (KC) vs. Francisco Liriano (DET)

The Royals’ Jason Hammel had his season debut pushed back 24 hours due to the rainout. Hammel last season in 32 starts registered a 5.27 ERA, his highest single-season mark since 2007. In five starts last year vs. Detroit, he logged a 4.15 ERA.

Francisco Liriano had his first start of the season pushed back a day due to the Easter Sunday doubleheader and the Tigers opting to recall Ryan Carpenter to start the back end of that twin bill against the Pirates.

Detroit signed veteran Liriano early in spring camp to give the Tigers an extra option — as not only a long relief man but potentially a starter — given some uncertainties in the back of the rotation. Liriano has capitalized on his opportunities, allowing just two earned runs in seven innings of work, spanning three starts. Now, he’s the clear-cut No. 3 starter to start the season.

GAME 2 | Jakob Junis (KC) vs. Matt Boyd (DET)

Jakob Junis made his major league debut last season with Kansas City and performed adequately, posting a 4.30 ERA in 20 appearances (16 starts). This current group of Tigers hitters is 7 for 22 (.318 BA) against Junis lifetime.

Matthew Boyd in 26 games (25 starts) for the Tigers last season compiled a 5.27 ERA, a considerable step back after recording a 4.53 in 2016. The biggest bugaboo for Boyd in his career thus far has been getting off to a good start in outings. He has a career 6.58 ERA in the first three innings of games (4.16 ERA after the third inning).

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Boyd has also had his struggles with the Royals as well, posting an ERA approaching 8.00 in nine career starts against Kansas City.

GAME 3 | Danny Duffy (KC) vs. Daniel Norris (DET)

This spot was originally scheduled for Eric Skoglund to make his season debut. Instead, the Royals will reportedly skip Skoglund and go with Danny Duffy, who in his first start of 2018 allowed five ER in four innings against Chicago. Duffy has emerged as Kansas City’s No. 1 starter over the last few seasons. He’s struggled against Detroit though, with an ERA approaching 6.00 over the last two seasons against the Tigers.

Like Boyd, lefty Daniel Norris took a step back in his development as a big league pitcher. In 101.2 innings of work — the most in any season of his career thus far — Norris finished with a 5.31 ERA, nearly two whole runs higher than the year prior. Command was a problem for the 24-year-old, the 1.61 WHIP was a new career-high and the K/BB ratio dipped to under 2.00.

If not for the Tigers placing Mike Fiers on the DL to start the year, Norris in all likelihood would be starting down in Triple-A Toledo. So now he gets an opportunity to make an early statement against a team that knocked him around last year (5.27 ERA in 3 starts vs. KC in 2017).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

The Tigers as a team hit .271 against Royals pitching in 2017. Albeit a small sample size, Jeimer Candelario took advantage of his few opportunities against Kansas City. Candelario in five games went 8 for 19 with a couple doubles and four runs batted in. Also, Mikie Mahtook in 55 at-bats hit .345 with a .950 OPS against the Royals in 2017.

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And we previously mentioned Mike Moustakas for the Royals. He’s just a career .235 hitter against Detroit pitching in his career, but he hit .355 with an OPS over .900 in 17 games against the Tigers last season.

SERIES INFO

  • Game 1 | Mon, April 2 @ 1:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 2 | Tues, April 3 @ 1:10 p.m. ET*
  • Game 3 | Wed, April 4 @ 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 be seen on MLB Network for those outside the Detroit market

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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