SERIES PREVIEW: Tigers finish up road trip with four-game set against Angels

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Jul 7, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Justin Wilson (38) delivers a pitch in the seventh inning during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Blue Jays won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT TIGERS (16-16) vs. LOS ANGELES ANGELS (17-19)

Game 1 – Michael Fulmer (3-1, 3.77 ERA, 35 K) vs. J.C. Ramirez (3-2, 3.74 ERA, 33 K)

Thursday, May 11 @ 10:07 p.m. ET

TV: Fox Sports Detroit | Radio: 97.1 The Ticket

Photo Credit: Tom Haggerty/Flickr

Through six starts this season, there is absolutely zero indication that Michael Fulmer will experience any sort of Sophomore Slump (*knock on wood*). He has been the Tigers go-to guy to start the season and that theme was never more evident than his last start. Fulmer went eight strong innings, striking out a season-high nine batters and allowing just one earned run. The Tigers are 4-2 when Fulmer gets the start and he has not allowed more than three earned in any appearance this season. If the Tigers want to get the four-game set started off on the right foot, they’ll need another strong performance from Fulmer with some run support sprinkled in.

J.C. Ramirez didn’t start the season in the Angels rotation but was brought in after the first week following an injury to Garrett Richards that sent him to the 60-day DL. Sans a brutal five-inning with five earned runs performance in his first start of the season against Kansas City, Ramirez has actually been very good. He’s struck out seven or more hitters in three starts already this season and threw a seven inning, two-hitter against Oakland two weeks ago. This is a game the Tigers should win based on the pitching matchup, but they need to get on Ramirez early and often.

 

Game 2 –  Jordan Zimmerman (3-1, 6.21 ERA, 20 K) vs. Matt Shoemaker (1-2, 5.21 ERA, 34 K)

Friday, May 12 @ 10:07 p.m. ET

TV: Fox Sports Detroit | Radio: 97.1 The Ticket

 

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers
Aug 4, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) pitches in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If you have any fantasy hitters on either of these teams, make sure you get them in the starting lineup Friday night. Jordan Zimmerman features a 3-1 record, but his 6.21 ERA is what really tells the story of his 2017 campaign. The veteran has not looked great this year. Besides the very first start of the season, Zimmerman has allowed three or more earned runs in every start and has not made it passed six innings yet this season. Jordan just can’t seem to put it all together yet. He has thrown well against this Angels lineup, however, so maybe Friday night is the night to right the ship.

 

Matt Shoemaker has also had his fair share of struggles in 2017. He is prone to give up the long ball (9 HR allowed this season) and issues a ton of walks (18 BB), but is also a blessing for the Angels when it comes to battling deep into games. The 30-year-old Eastern Michigan alum (s/o Trenton) will give the Angels a solid six innings, no matter how he’s performing, which is crucial in a four-game series where the bullpen can get worn out really quick. Bad news for the Tigers is that Shoemaker’s has showcased his best stuff against Detroit, going 2-1 with a 1.01 ERA in four starts. The 1.01 ERA is the best mark against any team he’s faced more than once in his career.

Game 3 –  Daniel Norris (2-2, 4.55 ERA, 27 K) vs. Ricky Nolasco (2-2, 4.31 ERA, 37 K)

Saturday, May 13 @ 9:07 p.m. ET

TV: Fox Sports Detroit | Radio: 97.1 The Ticket

 

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers
Sep 12, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris (44) walks off the field against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rough go of it for our boy, Daniel Norris, last outing against Oakland. The free-spirited lefty couldn’t get out of the 4th inning, reaching the 100-pitch mark and allowing four earned (five total) runs on eight hits. Norris has been about up in the air in terms of knowing what you’re going to get when he starts. Of his six games this year, he has gone six innings in three of them and allowed less than three runs. In the other three, he hasn’t made it passed the 4th inning and allowed four earned runs in each start. Which version of Daniel Norris will show up this Saturday against Los Angeles? Hopefully, the former. In a cool van.

 

Ricky Nolasco is a home-run-allowing machine this year. He has given up 11 big flies in seven starts, including two in each of his last two starts. Good news for Nicholas Castellanos and Justin Upton, whom both have tagged Nolasco for a pair of home runs in their careers. Ricky did have a good showing last time out, striking out a career-high 10 batters on his way to seven innings of two-run ball.

Game 4 –  Justin Verlander (3-2, 4.25 ERA, 42 K) vs. Alex Meyer (1-1, 7.62 ERA, 14 K)

Sunday, May 14 @ 3:37 p.m. ET

TV: Fox Sports Detroit | Radio: 97.1 The Ticket

Let’s play four, baby! For Sunday’s mid-day affair, the Tigers trot out #MustSeeJV in the series finale in a game the Tigers will surely need to mark in the win column. Justin Verlander has been a workhorse this season, breaking the 100-pitch mark in six of seven starts. The problem is he hasn’t made it to the 8th inning year all season. Teams seem to work Verlander harder than any other Tigers starter, fouling off pitches and working into deep counts. Verlander has to be more efficient and simply can not continue walking hitters at the rate he has been this year (20 BB in 42 IP).

Alex Meyer is given the tough assignment of facing Verlander on Sunday. The 27-year-old has had little to no success at the big league level. He has struggled in all three of his starts this season and currently sits at a 7.62 ERA. The ball should be flying around the ballpark Sunday when the Tigers are up, and that could spell trouble for the Angels if they have to go to their bullpen after three straight games to start the series.

PREDICTION

From a matchup standpoint, the Tigers should take three of four games this series. They have the advantage with Fulmer, Zimmerman, and Verlander all getting the nod throughout and they need to grab a hold of these opportunities when they can. I think there will be a lot of runs scored over the next four days, and the hope is they come from the Detroit side. The Tigers are currently 5th in the AL in runs scored and they need to ramp up that number against an Angels team that has the fewest quality starts of any team in the AL.

The worry is that a four-game series means a lot of innings for a Tigers bullpen that’s had a rough start to the season. However, relievers not named Francisco Rodriguez or Anibal Sanchez have thrown 19 scoreless innings with 20 strikeouts over the last nine games. It only takes a few people to ruin it for everybody, though, so Brad Ausmus will need to find the right pieces to put in the game during high-pressure situations.

I envision this is another series split, 2-2, and the Tigers return home from their west coast trip with a 4-5 record over the nine-game swing.

So far on the season, the Detroit Sports Nation Tigers team is 4-5 with their series predictions.