A look at this week’s three-game set in Boston.
SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Tigers are finally getting some of their top prospects onto the major league roster as they seek the other end of this long rebuild, but they aren’t quite at the finish line just yet.
Down. The Tigers have been one of the worst teams in baseball for pretty much the entire season, but things have become particularly bleak of late. They come into this series against the Red Sox having lost each of their last five games, 10 of their last 11, and 15 of their last 17.
5/4: Nick Pivetta vs. Michael Fulmer, 7:10 PM ET
In a season that has been full of positive surprises for the Red Sox, particularly on their pitching staff, Pivetta has stood out among the pack. The righty’s career to this point has largely pointed to a guy who just cannot consistently put up results, but that very much has not been the case this year. Through his first five starts of the year he has pitched to an impressive 2.81 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning. There are some cracks that could turn things sour very quickly though, particularly with his control. He’s been able to sneak by with six walks per nine innings to this point, but it feels like he’s either going to have to improve that control or he’s going to see that ERA climb quickly. This Tigers lineup is a good place to start in getting in a rhythm pounding the zone.
Fulmer once looked like a promising piece for the future in Detroit, winning the Rookie of the Year in 2016 and getting Cy Young votes that year as well. He followed that up with an All-Star bid the following season, but things have gone downhill since then, in part due to injury. He missed all of 2019 and hasn’t been the same since, putting up an ERA over 8.00 last year. To start this season he’s been solid with a 3.86 ERA, however, and he’s had peripherals to match. The righty has also been pitching out of the bullpen a lot as well, though, and he’s had some trouble with the long ball as a starter the last couple seasons. Look for the Red Sox to hopefully be aggressive in trying to attack mistakes from the Tigers righty. Fulmer will feature a pair of mid-90s fastballs as well as a slider and a changeup.
5/5: Martín Pérez vs. Casey Mize, 7:10 PM ET
It has been a bit of a strange year for Pérez, who came into the season expected to be a pitcher with poor peripherals that needed some batted ball luck combined with weak contact to have success. Instead, he’s missing more bats than he ever has, and his peripherals are outpacing the results. He’s coming off his best start of the year in which he struck out seven over 5 2⁄3 so hopefully that’s the start of a turnaround. And really, he has yet to really tank a start but inefficiency on the mound has led to a lot of early exits for the lefty.
Mize was the number one overall pick made by the Tigers back in the 2018 draft, and he quickly became one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. The righty shot his way up the system after being drafted, making his major-league debut less than two years later when he came up last season. The early returns at the highest level have not been strong, though it’s only been 12 career starts over the last two seasons. This year, he’s pitched to a 5.06 ERA over five starts as he’s struggled to miss bats. His control isn’t terrible, but it’s also not so good that he can get away with giving up a lot of contact. The righty is coming off a solid start against the White Sox, allowing three runs over six innings. Mize will feature a pair of mid-90s fastballs to go along with a slider and a splitter.
5/6: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Spencer Turnbull, 1:10 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)
For the most part, the Red Sox have gotten all they could have asked from Eovaldi early on this season, with the righty pitching on Opening Day and looking the part for pretty much the entire season. He went into his last start coming off his worst outing of the season to that point, but he got the bounce-back in Texas he was looking for, allowing just one run over six innings of work. They key for his turnaround this season has been the expansion of his arsenal to include more breaking balls than we’ve seen in the past. He needs everything to be working to get another strong outing to finish off this series.
The Tigers have a lot of potential in their rotation with pitchers on the right side of 30, and Turnbull is among the older names in that group at 28 years old. He’s a bit underrated among the top prospects, though, as he’s had some decent success in the majors over the last few years. He’s never really looked like an ace, but he misses bats at a solid rate and he’s been able to put forth respectable performances. This year, it’s been a struggle for the righty with a 4.50 ERA and the lowest strikeout rate of his career to this point. He is tough to square up and he gets a lot of ground balls, so if the Red Sox aren’t making contact it could be a long afternoon. Turnbull features a pair of fastballs in the low-to-mid-90s along with a slider as his main offerings.
Notable Position Players
Miguel Cabrera is still the biggest name on this roster and is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s also just not the player he once was, struggling this year to the tune of a 25 wRC+. Obviously he’s not that bad and he’s still a threat to hit one out at all times, but he’s also no longer close to the best hitter on the planet.
Akil Baddoo was one of the biggest stories of the early part of the season as a Rule 5 pick who was dominating in this lineup. He’s cooled off a bit of late, however, and is now down to a roughly league-avearge line.
Jeimer Candelario is probably the best true-talent hitter in this lineup right now, which says a lot about the group. He’s a solid all-around hitter, though, and could be a pest at the top of this lineup all week.
Jonathan Schoop is a familiar face from his days in Baltimore, and he’s similar to what he’s always been. The power hasn’t shown up yet but it should, though the swing and miss and lack of walks puts a low floor on his game.
Robbie Grossman is an underrated veteran outfielder with a solid approach that has allowed him to keep his head above water while waiting for the power numbers to show up.
Wilson Ramos is one of the better hitting catchers in the game and has been for quite some time. He’s not going to hit a ton of singles, but he’ll hit for some pop to keep his line up above average.
Harold Castro has struggled when he’s gotten into the lineup this year and has yet to hit an extra-base hit this season.
Willi Castro is pretty emblematic of this Tigers lineup to start the year as they have just suffered from a lack of power up and down the order, with Castro being among the strugglers.
Niko Goodrum has been able to hit for power, but a below-average walk rate and a strikeout rate over 40 percent has kept his overall production below average.
Gregory Soto has been a bright spot in the late innings for this bullpen, though he can get in trouble here and there with his control.
Bryan Garcia and José Cisnero serve as the primary setup options for Detroit. Cisnero is a classic plus stuff/low command kind of reliever while Garcia has really just had a ton of trouble throwing strikes.
Daniel Norris is a former starter turned top left-handed reliever, and his lack of strikeout stuff hasn’t played very well in the role early on.
Nomar Mazara has been dealing with some abdominal pain, but he’s ready to come back soon, perhaps for this series but not definitely.
Julio Teheran went down with a shoulder injury early in the season and he’s been moved to the 60-day injured list, suggesting he’ll be out for quite some time.
It’s certainly not going to be a great week weather-wise at Fenway, but they should be able to get all these games in. The only one that could be in a bit of doubt would be Wednesday, but right now it appears they should be able to make it work, though a delay would not be terribly surprising.