Series Preview: Two Teams Trying To Climb The Ladder

The Blue Jays and Tigers have both been disappointing in the first half.  Expected to contend for a playoff position in the American League, the Tigers own a 39-48 record, leaving them six-and-a-half games out of the Wild Card. They’re currently one spot behind the Jays, and if Toronto is going to climb back into contention, Detroit is a team they’re going to have to beat.

Friday at 7:10 ET

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Justin Verlander’s season hasn’t been like last year in which he was the runner-up in American League Cy Young voting. Verlander’s 2016 numbers were dominant, but this year, his walks are up and his strikeouts are down. His 4.4 walks per nine innings is the highest of Verlander’s career. He’ll go up against Aaron Sanchez, who got knocked around by the Astros in his return from the disabled list. Sanchez actually looked solid last time out, but a tight strike zone let to him unravelling.

Saturday at 6:10 ET

Michael Fulmer has taken over as Detroit’s ace with Verlander’s struggles. Fulmer, who won American League Rookie of the Year in 2016, has continued to be excellent. He owns a 3.19 ERA, and while his strikeout numbers aren’t traditional ace-like, he keeps the ball in the park and limits hard contact. Fulmer’s 0.5 homers per nine innings is the lowest in Major League Baseball right now. He’ll be opposed be Francisco Liriano, who’s had a couple of rough starts in back-to-back outings against Boston and Houston.

Sunday at 1:10 ET

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The series finale on Sunday will feature Marco Estrada and Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez, who certainly isn’t the same pitcher who signed an $80 million contract in 2012, has bounced back and forth from starting and making relief appearances. He owns a 5.89 ERA on the season, though his last few starts have been solid. Since returning to the rotation in mid-June, Sanchez has allowed more than two runs in only one of his four starts. Estrada, on the other hand, has only one quality start in his last seven appearances dating back to the beginning of June.