Two teams sitting at the bottom of the AL Central division, which has been tabbed as the worst division in baseball, will meet tonight in Detroit to start a three-game series. While this series and game may not move the needle for many people, it does feature a starting pitcher amid an unfortunate yet profitable streak for bettors, so we’ll preview the game before going over which side I’ll be backing.
With their win yesterday over the Twins, the Tigers secured their first series win since the last week of May. Detroit has a 4-6 record over their last ten games, but even with the losing record in that span, the Tigers' offense has been swinging the bat as well as some of the top teams in the league. In that ten-game span, Detroit has scored five or more runs in eight of those games, including yesterday in their 6-4 win.
While the offense has been playing at a high level, the Detroit pitching staff has played at the opposite level. In eight of their last ten games, Tigers pitchers have allowed four or more runs in eight of those games. Tonight they will send young righty Reese Olson to the mound for his fourth career outing. In two starts and one long relief appearance, Olson has pitched to a 6.08 ERA with 11 strikeouts and four walks.
Olson will face a Royals team that has not won a series since May 15-17 and is 1-9 over their last ten games. Kansas City will enter tonight after losing two out of three to the Angels, including a 5-2 loss yesterday afternoon. The Royals ended the game with eight hits, and only one went for extra bases. Aside from RBIs by Samad Taylor and Freddy Fermin, it was another slow day at the plate for the Royals.
On the mound for Kansas City, tonight is right-hander Jordan Lyles. In 14 starts, Lyles is 0-11, and his team is yet to win a game when he pitches. In 79.7 innings this season, Lyles has a 6.89 ERA with 59 punchouts and 28 walks. The righty took the loss against the Reds in his last outing by allowing five earned runs in six innings.
It’s hard to tell what the more impressive yet sad stat about this game is between Lyles 14 game losing streak or that this is only the 7th time this season the Tigers are favored. In the six games Detroit has been favored, they have gone 4-2, and I’ll be backing them tonight on the moneyline, which is priced at (-145). With Lyles’ struggles on the road and how the Tigers are swinging it at the dish, I think they can start this series on a high note.
Over the last month, the Tigers rank 8th in OPS, 8th in wOBA, and 5th in wRC+ against right-handed pitching at home. Those numbers set them up well to face Lyles, who has a 9.10 road ERA and is currently in the 13th percentile in expected slugging percentage. Opponents are hitting .273 against the Royals starter when he pitches on the road, and his walk percentage in this spot is also at 10.1%.
As for the Kansas City offense, they are ranked 28th in wRC+, wOBA, and OPS against right-handed pitching on the road over the past month. Through his first couple of outings, Reese Olson’s two most-thrown pitches both have expected batting averages of .233 or worse and with his 48.8% groundball percentage, I think he can give Detroit a quality start tonight.
Detroit Tigers (-145)