Detroit Tigers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates series preview

Pittsburgh Pirates v Baltimore Orioles
Pittsburgh Pirates v Baltimore Orioles / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

The Detroit Tigers start a two-gamer against the Pirates tonight

The Detroit Tigers were able to salvage one game from a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners this past weekend. The offense struggled in the first two games, scoring just two runs combined. It picked things up a bit on Sunday with a little help from Seattle's bullpen, specifically Matt Brash, who couldn't find the strike zone.

The Tigers now sit at 18-21 on the season. They are in third place in the AL Central and 3.5 games back of the first-place Twins. Now they turn the page for a quick two-game series against the Buccos, who've had an interesting start to the season to say the least.

Opponent breakdown: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates shocked the baseball world the first month of the season by getting off to a 16-8 start. They were getting contributions from a ton of young players, and the pitching and punched above its weight. Sadly for them, they've come back down to earth in the month of May.

The Buccos are just 2-8 in their last 10 games. What was once a huge lead for them in the NL Central has turned into a one-game deficit behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

They ranked in the bottom third of the league in runs per game (21st), and are just below league average in team OPS (.724). However, they have the most stolen bases in the league at an even 50. They have a ton of speed and have used the new pitcher disengagement rules to their advantage. Tigers pitchers will have to keep an eye on the basepaths.

They are also fifth in the league in walks at 155, so this is a young and disciplined lineup. They've been led by a couple of breakout hitters in Jack Suwinski and Connor Joe, who they got off waivers from the Rockies this offseason. The freshly-extended Bryan Reynolds is having another solid season for them as well.

They also have some nice role players in Tucupita Marcano and backup catcher Jason Delay, who is hitting .340 with a 146 OPS+ so far this season. Star slugging shortstop Oneill Cruz suffered a fractured ankle last month and is currently on the 60-day IL, so that's been a huge blow for them.

On the pitching side of things, they are still top 10 in ERA and FIP, but they are also in the top half of the league in walks allowed. Former top prospect Mitch Keller, who the Tigers will not see in this series, has finally figured something out this season, as he has a 2.38 ERA and 1.6 bWAR already this season. He's also struck out 69 batters in 56.2 IP.

Youngster Roansy Contreras got off to a good start, but he has a 5.71 ERA in so far in May. He's allowed four home runs this month after not allowing any in April.

In the bullpen, the Pirates have 3.70 ERA among their relievers, which is good for ninth in the baseball. All-Star closer David Bednar has been lights-out once again this season with a 0.56 ERA in 16 IP. The Tigers better hope they either have the lead in the ninth inning or the game is tied because they probably aren't scoring off him.

As for the reason for their struggles in May, it appears to be their offense. It's fallen off a cliff this month, as they are hitting just .180 with a .547 OPS as a team. The pitching has fallen off a little, but not nearly as much as the offense. They just haven't been able to score runs this month.

Hopefully that trend will continue here for the Detroit Tigers. If they take both of these games, they will be just one game under .500. They could easily get over the .500 mark by the end of the month. It's been a long time since this team had a winning record this deep into the season.

Pitching matchups

Tuesday, 6:40 p.m.: RHP Luis Ortiz (0-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Lorenzen (1-2, 4.18 ERA)

Wednesday, 1:10 p.m.: LHP Rich Hill (3-3, 4.35 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (4-2, 1.57 ERA)

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