Series matchup: Tigers at Marlins
Trying something new on the blog for this season. One thing I’ve wanted to do for a while is to do a setup for each series, so I’m giving this a try.
Scene-setter: The Tigers and Marlins will be the last teams to open up the regular season when they face off tonight at 7:10pm ET, starting a quick two-game opening series at Marlins Park.
Season series: Detroit and Miami play a pair of two-game series as part of the Interleague schedule. The Marlins visit Comerica Park June 28-29.
- Tuesday: Justin Verlander (5-8, 3.38 in 2015) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (11-8, 3.34 with O’s in 2015)
- Wednesday: Anibal Sanchez (10-10, 4.99 in 2015) vs. Jose Fernandez (6-1, 2.92 in 2015)
Key matchups: Both teams’ key sluggers, Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Cabrera, are back and healthy after injury-shortened 2015 seasons, and they’re likely to present matchup problems for opposing pitchers. Stanton flat-out mashes at Marlins Park, and he’ll test both Verlander (who settled down last year after giving up an .849 OPS to right-handed hitters in 2014) and Sanchez (29 homers allowed last year, 17 of them in 285 at-bats against right-handed batters).
The Marlins made the interesting move to start Chen on Opening Day and push Fernandez back to Wednesday. It’ll be Chen’s Marlins debut, but it’ll be a test from his past with Baltimore, where the Tigers had their success off of him. Ian Kinsler is 5-for-14 off Chen, Cabrera 3-for-6, and J.D. Martinez has two home runs in five at-bats (including postseason).
With no designated hitter, Victor Martinez is relegated to pinch-hitting work, which gives Brad Ausmus a nice veteran bat to play in late-game situations. Ausmus has a deeper bench of hitters than last year, so he has other options, but Martinez will loom for RBI situations. The Marlins bullpen has some veteran right-handers in ex-Tiger Edwin Jackson, Dustin McGowan and David Phelps.
Fun with splits: Justin Upton makes his Tigers debut in a National League park against a familiar foes. He loves facing the Marlins, batting .287 (82-for-286) with 13 doubles, five triples and 13 homers in 76 games. Yet he’s a mere .247 (22-for-89) hitter at Marlins Park, though more than half of those hits were for extra bases, including nine doubles and four homers.
Just so you know: Just as season-long Interleague Play brought us the first Opening Day rematch of World Series opponents from the previous season, we have reigning AL and NL batting champions Miguel Cabrera and Dee Gordon meeting in this series. It’s the first season-opening matchup of reigning batting champs since the American League formed in 1901, according to MLB Network research.
Familiar faces: Cabrera, Sanchez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Logan Kensing all are former Marlins. Saltalamacchia is actually in the final season of the three-year, $20.5 million contract he signed with Miami after the 2013 season. The Marlins released him last May but still must pay him under the contract, which is how the Tigers were able to sign him for just over the minimum salary.
The Marlins signed former Tigers starter Edwin Jackson to their bullpen in January. Miami is his seventh team since he was an All-Star starter in Detroit in 2009.
Appointment viewing: While fans don’t get a Verlander-Fernandez showdown, a Fernandez meeting with Sanchez is a bear of a matchup on a getaway day.