Detroit Tigers (42-66) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (57-49)
When: 6:10 p.m. Saturday. (Lou Whitaker’s No. 1 will be retired in a pregame ceremony.)
Where: Comerica Park in Detroit.
TV: Bally Sports Detroit.
Radio: WXYT-FM (97.1) (Tigers radio affiliates).
Probable pitchers: Tigers RHP Garrett Hill (1-3, 5.88 ERA vs. Rays LHP Shane McClanahan (10-4, 2.07 ERA).
First-pitch forecast: Sunny, high-80s.
BACK IN THE LINEUP? Tigers icon Miguel Cabrera, his ailing right knee and an uncertain future
Game notes: We’re not saying the Tigers won’t break through on offense today against the Rays, but it’s a tougher task than usual — which is saying something for a squad that’s averaging an MLB-worst 3.19 runs per game — as Tampa Bay sends lefty Shane McClanahan to the mound.
McClanahan, the 2018 No. 31 overall pick (30 after the Tigers took Case Mize and 224 picks before Tarik Skubal) out of USF, has been one of baseball’s best since debuting in the 2020 postseason, including striking out 158 and walking 23 over 122 innings this year. That ace status was cemented with a start in last month’s All-Star Game, in which he gave up two runs on four hits in the opening inning.
That’s a far cry from what he did earlier this season against the Tigers: McClanahan dominated Detroit for seven innings on May 17, allowing one run on four hits and no walks with seven strikeouts on just 90 pitches. (The lone run came on a homer by Jeimer Candelario in the fifth inning.)
“He’s a really good pitcher,” manager A.J. Hinch told reporters that night in St. Petersburg after McClanahan picked up 63 strikes, including 18 whiffs. “He’s got plus pitches across the board. His track record has been to generate a lot of swing and miss. Once he established that he was going to throw strikes, he got a few chases and did what he did.”
So what pitches should the Tigers be watching out for? Start with McClanahan’s four-seam fastball, which he uses 34.7% of the time, blazing it in at an average of 96.7 mph. It’s a moving target, too, with a wild 10.8 inches of horizontal movement, 4.3 inches and 65% better than the league average this year. The four-seamer isn’t McClanahan’s most effective pitch though; that would be his curveball, which he averages throwing at 81.6 mph for a minus-11 run value — best in the majors — as it drops 2.6 inches more than the league average. (By comparison, Alex Lange’s curve checks in with a minus-8 run value, good for fifth.)
McClanahan’s curve has a 30.5% whiff rate and a 42% strikeout rate, just ahead of his third pitch, the changeup, which has a 41.2% strikeout rate. The lefty goes to that 87.6 mph offering 24.8% of the time, getting whiffs 46.4% of the time and a minus-7 run value (tied for fifth in the majors with, among others, the Tigers’ Beau Brieske). Finally, the Florida product can fall back on a slider (sorry, Javier Báez), getting batters to whiff on his 88.8 mph offering 47.7% of the time he throws it.
Tigers starter Garrett Hill, making his sixth big-league start, doesn’t have as many superlatives, with whiff and strikeout rates below 20% on all five of his pitches (four-seamer, sinker, slider, curve and changeup); he pitches to contact, getting the most success from his sinker. He throws that pitch so hard (91.5 mph) that he doesn’t get much break (17.4 inches, 28% less than the league average), but hitters are slugging just .192 against it.
The Tigers and Rays wrap up the four-game set Sunday at 1:40 p.m. as Matt Manning makes his second start since returning from the injured list. Both squads have Monday off; the Tigers then welcome Cleveland to town for three games, Tuesday-Thursday, while the Rays head to Milwaukee for a pair of games on Tuesday-Wednesday.
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