After returning home from a rough road trip, the Detroit Tigers bounced back with their fourth straight home series win over the weekend against the division rival Chicago White Sox. Detroit in the series won two of the three games, each decided by a single run. After this weekend, they now rank second in all of baseball in terms of most games decided by one run (12-10 record).
The Tigers (23-29) now continue their lengthy 12-game homestand with a four-game set against the Los Angeles Angels (29-24) beginning on Memorial Day. The Halos might be the most fascinating team in the entire sport. They have the consensus best player in baseball in Mike Trout, a generational hitter and future first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in Albert Pujols, and perhaps the most underrated two-way shortstop in Andrelton Simmons. Oh, and they were the bigger winners of the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes in the offseason (we will get to him later).
And to add a little extra intrigue for Tigers fans, the Angels also have a pair of recent former Tigers in Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton in the everyday lineup. Additionally, former Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is in the first season of his new title as special assistant to the general manager for Los Angeles.
The Angels have been the Tigers’ biggest kryptonite for what seems like forever, regardless of the venue. Since 2000, Detroit has just a .365 win percentage (54-94) against the Halos, by far the worst mark against any single club in that span. The Tigers have just one series win at home against Los Angeles in the Angels’ last five trips to Detroit (2014).
Game 1 | Tyler Skaggs (Angels) vs. Matthew Boyd (Tigers)
The rotation for the Angels is littered with guys that have serious upside but equally as much injury concerns, and Tyler Skaggs (3-3, 3.11 ERA). A former first-round selection in 2009, Skaggs has made 67 career starts in parts of the last six seasons but never more than 18 starts in a single season. Monday will already mark the 11th in 2018 for Skaggs and he has been solid for Los Angeles so far, allowing two runs or fewer in eight of his first ten outings. He has allowed just one run in 11.2 innings in two prior starts vs. Detroit.
Matthew Boyd (2-4, 3.29 ERA) left his previous start in Minnesota prematurely with an oblique spasm. He finished with being docked for two runs over four innings plus two batters in the fifth, both of which is walked prior to his exit that later scored in the inning. It snapped a string of four consecutive starts of going at least six innings. The latest word is that Boyd should be okay to make his next scheduled start Monday afternoon against the Angels, a team he has yet to face in his young major league career.
Game 2 | Nick Tropeano (Angels) vs. Michael Fulmer (Tigers)
Nick Tropeano (2-3, 3.86 ERA) is another one of those hurlers who has struggled with staying healthy that has led to stunting his development. The 27-year-old missed late parts of 2016 and all of 2017 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and has already served time on the disabled list this season with elbow inflammation. Tropeano did not make the big league roster out of spring camp but has been called upon because of — yep, you guessed it — injuries. He has been a bit erratic at times in terms of start to start but, by and large, has been adequate for Anaheim.
Michael Fulmer (2-3, 4.08 ERA) showed in his most recent start that he can tough through not being at his best and still put his team in a chance to win. Fulmer against the Minnesota Twins last week allowed just a single run over 5.1 innings logged, working around three walks and needing a season-high 112 pitches. Among his biggest issues lately have been getting through a lineup a third time. Opposing batting lineups are hitting .365 when facing Fulmer a third time, versus just a .203 mark combined on the first and second time through. It’s a big reason the ERA in five May starts for Fulmer sits at 5.46.
Game 3 | TBA (Angels) vs. Mike Fiers (Tigers)
The Angels are officially tabbing it as “TBA” for Game 3 on Wednesday but all signs right now point towards it to being Shohei Ohtani (4-1, 3.35 ERA) on the bump for his eighth start of the year. The 23-year-old two-way Japanese import has to be atop the list of “must-see” events in baseball right now, particularly when he pitches. Los Angeles is being about as careful as they can be with the workload for Ohtani during his first major league season but so far so good for him and the club. Ohtani has a 2.25 ERA over his last three starts, last pitching on May 20.
Mike Fiers (4-3, 4.78 ERA) allowed four runs for a second straight start his last time out against the Chicago White Sox. Fiers also surrendered nine hits, which were the most over his last six starts overall. He was uncharacteristically not sharp either against the Pale Hose, issuing three free passes to White Sox hitters; he only had one walk or fewer in his first eight outings. Fiers has become quite familiar with the Angels after spending the last two-plus years with the Houston Astros. However, it has not been the fondest of familiarity (5.59 ERA in 8 starts vs. LAA).
Game 4 | Andrew Heaney (Angels) vs. Francisco Liriano (Tigers)
Continuing with our theme of “high upside but also high injury concerns” for the Angels, Andrew Heaney (2-3, 3.09 ERA) is hoping to finally establish himself in the majors. The former No. 9 overall pick of the Miami Marlins in 2012 has already made more starts this season (8) than he did the previous two years combined (6). Another Tommy John recipient, Heaney has never made more than 18 starts in a single year. He has been pretty darn good with a clean bill of health in 2018, allowing one run or fewer in three straight starts and five of his last six.
Francisco Liriano (3-2, 3.90 ERA) will surely be anxious to get back on the bump after a rough finish to his last start. Liriano against the White Sox allowed just one run on one hit through the first four innings but was then ambushed for four runs in seven batters faced in the fifth and sixth frames. Like Fulmer but more recently publicized, the Tigers are reportedly already fielding interest from multiple clubs regarding a potential trade for the 34-year-old, who has thrice been traded mid-season in his career. Liriano has a career 6.00 ERA in 16 appearances against the Angels.
HITTERS TO WATCH
Detroit decided to move on from Ian Kinsler during the winter, trading him to the Angels for a pair of low-level prospects. Fans of the Tigers collectively scratched their heads, particularly on social media, when the deal went down. It also left one of our now former contributors to criticize Tigers GM Al Avila for dealing away Kinsler, who had long openly expressed an interest in staying with the club through a rebuild.
The former fan favorite has struggled to get going after missing the start of the year due to injury. He is mired in a 3-for-37 slump that has resulted in his average dipping down to .178 this season. Could being back in Comerica Park spark him?
On the flip side, the Tigers got third baseman Jeimer Candelario back from the DL over the weekend. And he picked up right where he left off in terms of being a tough out. Candelario went 3 for 12 in the weekend series against the White Sox and a walk on Sunday extended his on-base streak to an AL-leading 21 consecutive games, dating back to April 21.
- Game 1 | Mon, May 28 @ 1:10 p.m. ET
- Game 2 | Tue, May 29 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
- Game 3 | Wed, May 30 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
- Game 4 | Thu, May 31 @ 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 (out-of-market only)