The KC Royals are hoping Tigers’ bats remain toothless

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /

Detroit’s offense could benefit the KC Royals in the teams’ four-game series.

The KC Royals, a resurgent team with a division lead, begin four games with Detroit at Comerica Park tonight, but won’t face the thorn in their side that Miguel Cabrera has been for so long. Cabrera, the future Hall of Famer who’s made trouble for the Royals for most of his 19-year career (32 homers, 140 RBIs and .306/.383/.488 against KC says it all), is injured and won’t play against one of his favorite targets.

Cabrera’s absence helps explain Detroit’s beleaguered 2021 offense. Through late Thursday night, the Tigers rank 28th in the majors in runs, 25th in walks, 23rd in hits, 25th in average (.215), sixth in strikeouts, 26th in OPS, and 29th in OBP. Of Tigers who’ve played at least 10 games, only rookie outfielder Akil Baddoo (.295) and versatile Harold Castro (.294) are hitting over .270.

Baddoo, only 22, can inflict Cabrera-like damage in an instant. Although he averaged only a shade over five homers in four minor league seasons, he’s clubbed four and driven in 13 runs in 14 games, and is slugging .750 with a 1.054 OPS. But unlike Cabrera, Baddoo is lightning fast so, although his skills are still somewhat raw, he’ll bear watching on the bases.

The good news for the Royals is Baddoo likes to swing, not walk—he strikes out 38.1 percent of the time and draws bases on balls in a mere 2.4 percent of his plate appearances.

Catcher Wilson Ramos leads Detroit in homers with six and his eight RBIs are second only to Baddoo, but he’s batting only .246 with a .292 OBP. Right fielder Nomar Mazara, typically good for 20 homers a season, has two but, like Cabrera, is injured and not expected to play against the Royals. Despite hitting barely above Mendoza (.203), left fielder Robbie Grossman has a team-high .360 OBP but only five runs, a testament to the Tigers’ trouble scoring—Detroit has a -26 run differential to go with its 28th ranking in runs.

Long story short? The Tigers’ meager offense may help the KC Royals more than themselves.

The KC Royals need to get to the Detroit bullpen early in each game.

It’s a good bet a 7-12 team with a -26 run differential doesn’t get great pitching, and that’s precisely the case with the Tigers. Their high 4.90 team and 6.64 bullpen ERAs are the worst in baseball; a 6.64 bullpen ERA is an especially bad sign. Hitting Detroit’s starters hard and penetrating the pen as soon as possible will be keys for Kansas City.

But in this series, the former task may be harder than pushing around the Tigers’ questionable relievers. Expect Detroit to start their best four starters—Casey Mize against Mike Minor (1-1, 5.17) tonight, Matthew Boyd against Brady Singer (0-2, 3.77) Saturday, Michael Fulmer against Danny Duffy (2-1, 0.50) Sunday, and Spencer Turnbull against Brad Keller (1-2, 12.00) in Monday’s series finale. The Tiger foursome owns five of the team’s seven pitching wins.

Mize had surrendered one run in two starts before the A’s battered him for five runs in as many innings Saturday for the seventh of their current 11 straight wins. The righthander is 1-1, 3.38.

Lefthander Boyd’s ERA is 2.03, he’s averaging 6.2 innings a start with a 0.98 WHIP, and he’s 2-1.

Fulmer’s first three appearances were out of the pen, but the righthander has since started two in a row and is 1-1, 3.94 after starting against and beating Houston, then losing to Pittsburgh.

The Tigers brought Turnbull back from the Injured List Wednesday and started him against the Pirates; in his first outing of the year, he struck out six and surrendered only a run and two hits in five innings for the win.

So it is that the KC Royals will see Detroit’s four top starters, but that won’t mean much if the Tigers’ toothless offense remains soft. And as bad as those bats have been, the Kansas City rotation has an excellent opportunity to shore itself up.

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Vitally important to the Royals will be to rough up Detroit’s starters and get into its porous bullpen early.

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The Royals kick off their first series of the season with Detroit tonight at Comerica Park. Game time is 6:10 p.m. CDT; the clubs then play Saturday, Sunday and Monday with each contest scheduled to start at 12:10 p.m. CDT.