Detroit Tigers (40-60) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (55-44)
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday.
Where: Rogers Centre in Toronto.
TV: Apple TV+ (online only, no Bally Sports Detroit).
Radio: WXYT-FM (97.1) (Tigers radio affiliates).
Probable pitchers: Tigers RHP Bryan Garcia (2022 MLB debut; 2.90 ERA in Triple-A) vs. Blue Jays RHP Alek Manoah (11-4, 2.24 ERA).
First-pitch forecast: Partly cloudy, high-70s (in retractable-roof stadium).
Game notes: If you squint a bit, Blue Jays righty Alek Manoah kinda LOOKS like a West Virginia product, or at least like his alma mater’s live mascot. At 6 feet 6 and 285 pounds he has the thick build — we’d call it “a dad bod” if he wasn’t averaging 94 mph on his four-seam fastball and 93.7 mph on his sinker — that often denotes a classic power pitcher, plus a beard that could probably be grown out to “Mountaineer” length in a month or so.
The No. 11 overall pick in 2019 (six spots behind the Tigers’ Riley Greene), Manoah rocketed to the majors, debuting in May 2021 and making 20 starts with a 3.22 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 111⅔ innings last season. He has been even better this year, posting a 2.24 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 120⅔ innings for a breakout campaign that included an entertaining mic’d-up inning during the All-Star Game in L.A. last week, in which he struck out three. (A sample quote from Manoah, in response to John Smoltz’s suggestion of a back-foot slider to Mets All-Star Jeff McNeil: ““Oh, you’re sexy.”)
Unfortunately for McNeil, Manoah’s pitch demonstrated his biggest weakness last season and this one: a slight lack of control, as the slider plunked McNeil in the front foot. Manoah led the American League with 16 hit-by-pitches last season and has an AL-high nine in 19 starts this year. That’s probably nit-picking, considering Manoah has cut his walks-per-nine-innings rate from 3.2 last year to 1.9 in 2022.
He features a familiar power-pitcher style, throwing his four-seamer 37.2% of the time, followed by his slider (28%) and his sinker (23.4%). The slider, representing his change-of-pace pitch at just an average of 81.4 mph (compared to a changeup that averages 86.7 mph), is his big whiff-maker, drawing swings-and-misses 32.9% of the time; it drops nearly five inches more than the average slider this season. But the four-seamer, slider and sinker have all been effective at getting outs, with each having a “put-away” percentage of just over 21%, while the four-seamer comes in an impressive minus-9 runs this season, good for 17th among hurlers with that pitch. (No.1 is the Twins’ Joe Ryan, who has diced up the Tigers’ lineup twice this season.)
Manoah owned the Tigers in his only start against them, striking out eight and allowing two runs on four hits over 6⅓ innings on Aug. 28, 2021. Three of those hits belong to current Tigers, as Jeimer Candelario, Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Schoop each went 1-for-3 in that start at Comerica Park. The five other current Tigers who’ve faced him are a combined 0-for-11.
For the Tigers, right-hander Bryan Garcia will take the mound in his 2022 MLB debut. Garcia finished 2020 as the Tigers’ closer, with a shiny 1.66 ERA over 21⅔ innings; his 2021 was a bit more tarnished, with a 7.55 ERA in 39⅓ innings, plus a two-month stint in Triple-A covering most of July and all of August (with a 5.73 ERA).
Garcia’s time with the Mud Hens has been more productive: He posted a 2.56 ERA with 25 strikeouts and, gulp, 16 walks in 31⅔ innings of relief before moving to Toledo’s rotation on July 10. In his three starts since then, he has allowed four runs on nine hits and six walks with six strikeouts over 8⅔ innings, and has yet to face more than 13 batters in a start. In other words, get ready for a bullpen day (minus unvaccinated Andrew Chafin, who didn’t make the trip into Canada), a couple days before the Tigers’ bullpen likely will be shaken up at the trade deadline.
The Tigers have two more games in Toronto, both afternoon affairs, with a 3:07 start Saturday and a 12:05 start on Sunday (that’ll only be viewable on Peacock, NBC’s online-only streaming service).
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