One of the strangest division races in recent memory rolls on in the AL Central, with the Twins refusing to extend their lead and the Guardians refusing to gain any ground. After another loss yesterday, Cleveland sits 4.5 games back in the division and will return home to host the Tigers for a four-game series. We’ll preview the opening game of that series before going over my play for the first five innings.
Detroit enters tonight in third place in the AL Central, and over the past week and a half, they have been helping the Guardians stay in the race by keeping the Twins out of the win column. Since August 6th, the Tigers have played the Twins six times and have gone 4-2 in those games, including an 8-7 win yesterday in Minnesota. In yesterday’s win, Detroit notched 12 hits, half of which went for extra bases, including two home runs by Spencer Torkelson and four RBIs from Riley Greene.
Heading into another divisional series, the Tigers will send lefty Tarik Skubal to the mound tonight for his 8th start. Out of Skubal’s seven starts this season, he’s held his opponent scoreless in four, and in the other three, he’s allowed four or more earned runs. The lefty is coming off a rough outing in Boston, where he allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits in 5.1 innings of work.
The Cleveland Guardians offense will be taking on Skubal tonight, fresh off a loss last night in Cincinnati. Cleveland had a big offensive series against the Rays but could not produce to the same level in Cincinnati, scoring a combined five runs over the two-game set, including two last night in their 7-2 loss. Only one of the team’s nine hits would go for extra bases, as a Gabriel Arias home run and a Jose Ramirez RBI single would be the team’s only offensive highlights.
In desperate need of going on a run, the Guardians will start this series by having Xzavion Curry on the bump. The young right-hander has made 25 relief appearances but has been transitioned into a starter role as of late. Despite getting the no-decision, Curry would struggle in his most recent start against the Rays, allowing five earned runs in five innings.
The Detroit Tigers F5 run-line of (-.5) is currently priced at (+105), and I’ll be backing them for my play. While the Guardians need to start making a move in the right direction, the Tigers are countering today with something the Guardians have struggled against, which is a left-handed pitcher. Detroit’s offense has also swung the bats well on the road as of late and won’t be overmatched by the Guardians starter.
Since July 17th, the Guardians' offense is hitting .205 and ranks 29th in OPS, wOBA, and wRC+ against left-handed pitching at home. Now they face a starter in Skubal, who had two quality starts against them last season and, in 32.1 innings this year, has a 55.2% groundball percentage. With a 3.41 FIP on the road this season, the lefty is the ideal starter for the surging Tigers to have on the mound.
While Skubal is a bad matchup for the Guardians, Xzavion Curry is an ideal matchup for the Tigers' offense. The right-hander is in the 15th percentile in xERA/xwOBA, 10th percentile in xBA, and 9th percentile in xSLG. Those are not the numbers you want to have when going up against a Tigers offense that ranks 13th in OPS, SLG, and wRC+ against right-handed pitching on the road over the past month.
Detroit Tigers F5 (-.5)(+105)