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Detroit Tigers series preview: Opportunity knocks

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The Royals get a prime chance to make up ground in the playoff race.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Reeling after two straight losses to the New York Yankees, the World Champion Kansas City Royals cling to an outside shot at the playoffs as their intradivisional rivals, the Detroit Tigers, come to town. This three game tilt does provide the Royals with the chance to draw even with the Tigers in the playoff chase, though to do so the Royals would need to sweep their foes. The Tigers sit tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild card spot thanks to an 8-2 record in their last ten games, built on sweeps of both the Twins and White Sox.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Pitching match-ups

Game One - Friday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Anibal Sanchez 30 132.1 114 48 5.92 5.06 4.74 4.49 0.8 -1.0
Danny Duffy 36 143.2 149 31 3.01 3.49 3.87 3.50 2.8 3.8

This is hardly the first time the Royals have faced Sanchez this season, and it is not the first time that his 2016 struggles have been detailed in this space. Of course, despite Sanchez's difficulties this season - and when a pitcher making his salary gets demoted to the bullpen for an entire month, there is no way to say he hasn't had difficulties - Sanchez had his best start of the season against the Royals, a no-decision two weeks ago that saw a lack of run support and the bullpen (or at least Justin Wilson and Shane Greene) fritter away his eight-strikeout, one-hit, two-walk gem.

Game Two - Saturday, 6:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Michael Fulmer 21 130.2 108 34 2.69 3.75 3.89 4.00 2.4 4.6
Yordano Ventura 26 149.2 115 60 4.33 4.76 4.53 4.65 0.9 1.3

After a dominant first half built on sterling K-rates and strong helping of good luck, Fulmer's second half has seen his K-rates dip and his FIP jump up more than half a run. His walk-rate since the break has been a comically low 1.17 BB/9 and 3.3 BB% off-setting his dip in Ks, but his strand rate has come back down to earth, and his BABIP is still screaming for some regression to the mean. Fulmer didn't get the win in either start in which he faced the Royals earlier in the season, so hopefully the Royals can keep him winless against them in 2016 with this game having the added importance of factoring heavily in the playoff picture.

Game Three - Sunday, 1:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Daniel Norris (L) 9 39.2 33 14 3.86 4.18 4.49 4.55 0.5 0.7
Dillon Gee 27 105.0 84 31 4.37 4.90 4.58 4.34 0.1 0.5

The key get in the David Price deal, Norris spent much of this season toiling away in the minors as he had options (and had service time that could potentially be gamed). It would be hard to argue that Norris wouldn't have been preferable to Sanchez or Mike Pelfrey for the bulk of the season, but life ain't always fair. Still, options and a short DL stint with a strained oblique have limited the southpaw to just 39.2 innings in the majors this season with mixed results in those innings. Nothing has stuck out as particularly impressive or terrible in Norris's 2016 major-league campaign, but he hasn't done much to distinguish himself either. He's been solid if only average.

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Ian Kinsler 2B 579 24 97 70 13 .275 .335 .470 .345 116 4.4 5.0
Cameron Maybin CF 289 3 46 36 14 .329 .401 .416 .360 126 1.6 1.4
Miguel Cabrera 1B 556 28 72 81 0 .309 .383 .540 .385 143 3.7 4.1
Victor Martinez (S) DH 511 23 55 75 0 .299 .352 .489 .354 122 1.1 1.6
J.D. Martinez RF 397 19 57 54 1 .320 .383 .576 .402 155 2.2 2.2
Justin Upton LF 516 18 62 59 9 .236 .295 .407 .300 85 -0.6 0.7
James McCann C 293 11 22 42 0 .216 .271 .369 .276 69 0.7 1.0
JaCoby Jones 3B 8 0 3 2 0 .500 .500 .875 .575 273 0.2 0.3
Jose Iglesias SS 413 4 48 27 5 .245 .297 .322 .273 66 1.3 1.3
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (S) C 250 12 29 37 0 .188 .308 .394 .305 88 0.7 0.4
John Hicks C - - - - - - - - - - - -
Erick Aybar (S)* IF 407 3 32 28 3 .240 .292 .318 .264 60 -1.3 -0.2
Andrew Romine (S) IF 135 1 14 12 6 .225 .301 .300 .270 64 0.0 0.0
Tyler Collins (L) OF 126 4 12 13 1 .230 .302 .381 .297 83 0.0 -0.4

Stats through Wednesday, August 31 | * 368 PA with Atlanta Braves

The top and heart of the Tigers' order has been as productive as one would expect. Ian Kinsler has been as solid as the Tigers have come to expect. J.D. Martinez has lit the world afire since his return from the disabled list, slashing .404/.446/.712 in 27 games with 7 HR, 21 R, and 15 RBI in that stretch. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez have done precisely what is expected of them. The bottom 44% of the order, however, has left Brad Ausmus a bit to be desired. Perhaps recent call-up JaCoby Jones can spark that part of the order with atypical capitalization, suspension-worthy drug use, and toolsy if free-swinging profile, but his stint in AAA this season (the first time as a minor league that he wasn't at least a little old for a prospect relative to the level) suggests that the Tigers might want to temper their expectations a little bit.

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