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Detroit Tigers series preview: A chance to close the gap

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If the Royals make a move in the playoff picture, it has to happen now.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The World Champion Kansas City Royals trail the Detroit Tigers for the second spot in the Central by six games. This three game set presents them with a chance to close that gap. Sandwiched between seven games with the Twins, if the Royals were going to make any sort of move this season, it would likely be dependent upon taking advantage of this stretch of games.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Pitching match-ups

Game One - Monday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Ian Kennedy 23 133.2 134 45 3.91 5.00 4.52 4.06 0.6 2.0
Daniel Norris (L) 5 18.0 19 5 4.00 4.03 4.18 3.88 0.3 0.4

Having spent three separate stints on the disabled list this season, grounded cool guy who chooses to live in a Vanagon Daniel Norris has been limited to just five appearances - four of them starts. Thrice he has pitched five innings. Norris was the key return for the Tigers in the David Price deadline deal with Toronto last year, though Matt Boyd has proved to be more productive this year. Make no mistake though, Norris is the one with the higher ceiling. Health has been his enemy this season, but he was a top-20 prospect on both MLB.com and Baseball America's list heading into the 2015 season. His peripherals have been solid this season, but the standard small sample size alerts are in play, as he has yet to pass the 20-inning mark on the season.

Game Two - Tuesday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Danny Duffy (L) 35 124.1 138 25 2.82 3.16 3.57 3.19 2.9 3.5
Justin Verlander 24 160.1 170 43 3.42 3.50 3.92 3.60 3.6 4.2

Tigers fans like to point to Verlander's strong second half last year, pairing it with his solid if not dominant performance this season, asserting that he is still one of the game's best pitchers. The slipper slope of arguing while using selective end points is clearly in play with any such analysis, but Verlander has certainly been good this season, if not quite the Cy Young front-runner he was in his peak years. Any hope his opponents had for an earlier decline have evaporated into the ether, but it's probably safe to say that this isn't the same Verlander that ran roughshod over the American League as the Tigers were beginning their stretch of A.L. Central dominance five years ago.

Game Three - Wednesday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Yordano Ventura 23 133.0 101 55 4.60 4.81 4.60 4.73 0.8 0.9
Anibal Sanchez 27 112.2 102 46 6.31 5.26 4.72 4.50 0.4 -1.1

That Anibal Sanchez pitched his way from the rotation into the bullpen this season despite his $16.8M price tag should say roughly all that's needed to know about the 32-year-old righty. His 2015 was less than inspiring, but good health eluded him and a hope for a change of luck with an offseason to get right wasn't completely unrealistic. Of course, he sports an ERA north of 6.00 and a FIP north of 5.00 this season, so that hope would appear to have been misplaced. He had strung together four straight palatable starts (including an eight-inning gem against the Mets) heading into his last start, but he was shellacked in Texas in his last start (eight earned in four innings).

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Ian Kinsler 2B 515 22 92 63 13 .290 .346 .492 .358 124 4.4 4.8
Tyler Collins (L) CF 95 4 11 12 1 .239 .295 .432 .311 92 -0.1 -0.3
Miguel Cabrera 1B 500 27 66 77 0 .311 .384 .551 .390 146 3.6 3.9
Victor Martinez (S) DH 451 21 47 69 0 .304 .359 .499 .362 127 1.2 1.4
J.D. Martinez RF 331 15 44 44 1 .303 .372 .548 .386 143 1.2 1.2
Justin Upton LF 462 13 52 46 8 .230 .286 .378 .285 74 -0.8 -0.3
Casey McGehee 3B 31 0 2 1 0 .290 .290 .323 .267 61 0.0 0.1
James McCann C 253 9 18 38 0 .211 .262 .353 .267 61 0.4 0.6
Andrew Romine (S) SS 109 1 12 6 5 .216 .296 .299 .268 62 -0.2 -0.3
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (S) C 216 10 24 33 0 .199 .315 .403 .311 92 1.0 0.7
Mike Aviles Util 180 1 17 6 2 .211 .260 .271 .237 41 -1.3 -1.2
Dixon Machado IF 4 0 1 0 0 .333 .500 .333 .392 147 0.0 0.1

Stats through Saturday, August 13

With their third-, fourth-, and fifth-most valuable position players (Nick Castellanos, Jose Iglesias, and Cameron Maybin by fWAR) on the disabled list, the Tigers are scrambling to try to replace that production. Without those three in the lineup, Brad Ausmus is having to use four replacement-level (or worse) players on a daily basis. Having Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and the Martinezes in the lineup helps ease his pain, but this lineup is hardly the stable of studs that Detroit had when they were pre-season picks to score hundreds more runs than everyone else in the first half of the decade we're in now.

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