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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Tigers series preview

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This Tigers team has struggled much of the year.

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Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Cubs haven’t played the Tigers since 2015.

So I asked Ashley MacLennan, who writes articles for us here and who also is an editor at our SB Nation Tigers site Bless You Boys, to give us an update on the team from Detroit.

In August 2015 in his first career at bat, Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris hit a two-run homer at Wrigley Field.

I’m choosing to remember that memory, because I don’t think this Tigers visit to Wrigley is going to go quite so well.

The Tigers just came off an 11-game losing streak that started, of all things, by being swept in a two-game set by the Reds (pain that Cubs fans will know all too well from recent history). The magic of the Detroit rally goose is gone, and the team had been struggling to eke out a win of any kind, which they finally did against the Blue Jays Sunday to end their long dry spell.

Basically, the Tigers aren’t in great shape right now, seeming to be living up to all the pre-season expectations they set by being the worst team in baseball in 2017. They aren’t the worst team in baseball this season, though, and at one point were less than two games back of first place in the A.L. Central. All that is thanks to some exciting young talent.

Nicholas Castellanos, for what he lacks defensively, is batting .307/.354/.508. John Hicks, who had primarily seen use as a backup catcher, is now a regular first baseman since the team lost Miguel Cabrera for the year. Hicks has a line of .284/.326/.433. And third baseman Jeimer Candelario (remember him?) has mashed 12 home runs this year so far, a team best.

The Cubs will be seeing 2016 Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer on Tuesday and Francisco Liriano on Wednesday. Fulmer seems to be finding himself after a few rough outings, so his 3-7 record might not be the best thing to focus on, nor his 4.20 ERA. Liriano, who recently came off a disabled list stint (hamstring), stumbled in his last outing after starting the season strong. His current 3.99 ERA is largely due to those early better starts and not his current showings.

Long story short, the Tigers are in a rut and while they’ll post some runs against the Cubs, their success will come down to how well their starters do, and if they can establish an early enough lead to not depend on their bullpen to hold on for a win.

Fun fact

I suppose this one should be titled “Not-so-fun fact.” The Cubs’ winning percentage against the Tigers is their worst all-time against any A.L. opponent since interleague play began, .238. They’re just 5-16 against Detroit all-time in the regular season and only 2-9 at Wrigley Field. (I suspect that begins to change this week.) The teams will meet again for another two-game set in Detroit next month.

Pitching matchups

Tuesday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (5-8, 4.21 ERA, 1.228 WHIP, 4.89 FIP) vs. Michael Fulmer, RHP (3-7, 4.20 ERA, 1.251 WHIP, 4.02 FIP)

Wednesday: Jose Quintana, LHP (6-6, 4.31 ERA, 1.412 WHIP, 4.50 FIP) vs. Francisco Liriano, LHP (3-4, 3.99 ERA, 1.300 WHIP, 4.96 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Tuesday: 1:20 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Detroit markets)

Wednesday: 1:20 p.m. CT, WGN

Prediction

Francisco Liriano used to give the Cubs all kinds of trouble, but now he’s 34 and not the guy he was in Pittsburgh. Michael Fulmer has allowed 11 home runs already this year after giving up only 13 all of last year.

I don’t usually like to predict sweeps, but this is only a two-game series and the Tigers are just not playing good ball and the Cubs are. Beyond that, the Cubs have Monday off to rest up from a long, hot weekend and the Tigers are playing Monday in Toronto, their 11th straight game without an off day. Further, that’s part of a stretch where they play 14 of 18 on the road, and the Tigers are 14-27 on the road (entering Monday).

The Cubs will take both these games.

Up next

The Cubs have Thursday off, then host the Reds in a three-game series at Wrigley Field beginning Friday afternoon.


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Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    2
    (242 votes)
  • 25%
    1
    (89 votes)
  • 6%
    0
    (23 votes)
354 votes total Vote Now