Detroit Tigers series preview: The battle of southpaws

Tarik Skubal pitches against the Houston Astros. Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Tarik Skubal pitches against the Houston Astros. Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Tigers are ending their seven-game homestand by playing host to the visiting Oakland Athletics for only the second time this season.

Let’s hope it’s as entertaining as former Detroit Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon slipping on the mound back in 2013 when the A’s took home a 6-3 victory thanks to a rain stoppage.

Just kidding.

The last time the Detroit Tigers met with the A’s, it wasn’t pretty.

The April four-game series ended in a sweep in favor of the A’s, with the Tigers putting up goose eggs in two consecutive games.

While the Tigers and A’s don’t get the chance to battle often, it’s fairly evident that unless you’re Justin Verlander mowing players down in the postseason, the Tigers struggle against the club.

Pitching Matchup
(Aug. 31, 7:10 p.m.)

The first showdown in the series will be a battle of the southpaws. Tarik Skubal is set to start on Tuesday against the A’s Cole Irvin.

Skubal broke in the bump in the series back in April, pitching 4.0 innings, walking four batters and giving up one run, and tallying five strikeouts. Not too shabby for the young starter, but he’ll likely want to stretch out a few more innings to avoid an early dive into the bullpen.

Currently, Skubal is sporting a 4.01 ERA, 1.7 WAR, and dominated his last start against the St. Louis Cardinals fanning 10 batters in 5.0 innings pitched. With a bit of a rocky month in July, Skubal seems to be back in form with a stellar few starts in August.

The A’s Cole Irvin is a slightly more seasoned pitcher than Skubal with a 3.68 ERA and 2.0 WAR, but struggled in his latest start, only pitching 3.0 innings before getting pulled against Seattle. In April, Irvin controlled the Tigers bats in 6.0 innings pitched with no earned runs and six strikeouts.

The matchup between the two lefties is pretty evenly stacked, but the Tigers bats have to show up.

Bats to Watch

The A’s bats were heavy in the April series with Matt Olson, Mitch Moreland, and Matt Chapman leading the charge. Getting ahead of those batters will be crucial for Skubal to find success and the Tigers need to work on run support to assert early dominance.

The Tigers lineup looks a bit different than the one in April, with veteran Miguel Cabrera healthy and back in action, Derek Hill commanding center field in place of JaCoby Jones, and Zack Short making the rounds as a shortstop.

Standout Tigers bats in the April series were Willi Castro, Harold Castro, and Jeimer Candelario with Willi knocking a triple, a double, and scoring off of a Jonathan Scoop sacrifice fly in the first game of the series.

The upside is that the Tigers are playing some of the best baseball since the All-Star break, and with the adjustments made to the batting order, it’s possible that this series against Oakland will quite literally be a whole different ballgame.

Oakland is second in the AL West with a 72-59 record and is 5.5 games behind the first-place Houston Astros. The A’s are above the .500 mark, while the Tigers are sitting under at .473 and trailing the second-place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central.

The A’s are reeling off a Yankees smackdown and will surely be running off of that adrenaline coming into Detroit.

Take two for the Tigers being a potential spoiler, who says no?