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Series preview: Pirates begin AL road trip against Tigers

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The Buccos head to Detroit for three.

Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Indians Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Pirates (7-9) vs. Detroit Tigers (6-10), April 20-22, 2021

Location: Comerica Park, Detroit, MI

TV: AT&T Sports Pittsburgh

Radio: KDKA-AM

Tigers SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys


The Pirates begin their first series of interleague play against the Tigers. The next eight games on the schedule come against AL Central opponents, and six come in AL parks, which means the infamous designated hitter is coming out!

Here’s a look at what we can expect this weekend:

Projected Starters

Tuesday, 6:40 p.m. EST

Tyler Anderson vs. Michael Fulmer (1-0, 3.00 ERA)

Wednesday, 6:40 p.m. EST

Mitch Keller (1-2, 8.74 ERA) vs. Spencer Turnbull (4-4, 3.97 ERA in 11 starts in 2020)

Thursday, 1:10 p.m. EST

JT Brubaker (2-0, 1.76 ERA) vs. Jose Urena (0-3, 5.52 ERA)

Projected Lineups

Pirates

  1. Adam Frazier (2B)
  2. Phillip Evans (3B)
  3. Bryan Reynolds (LF)
  4. Colin Moran (1B)
  5. Gregory Polanco (RF)
  6. Erik Gonzalez (DH)
  7. Kevin Newman (SS)
  8. Jacob Stallings (C)
  9. Anthony Alford (CF)

Tigers

  1. Robbie Grossman (LF)
  2. Jeimer Candelario (3B)
  3. Willi Castro (SS)
  4. Wilson Ramos (C)
  5. Renato Nuñez (1B/DH)
  6. Jonathan Schoop (2B/1B)
  7. Niko Goodrum (2B)
  8. JaCoby Jones/Akil Baddoo (CF)
  9. Victor Reyes (RF)

We spoke with Brandon Day from our sister site Bless You Boys to discuss some storylines for the Tigers heading into 2021. Here’s what he had to say about the team:

1. What has been the biggest surprise for the team so far?

Well obviously Rule 5 pick Akil Baddoo has been our biggest surprise. Coming basically straight from Single-A ball to the majors is rather ridiculous, but he’s apparently put the last two years away from regular action to good use. From hitting a home run on the first major league pitch he saw, to cranking a grand slam the very next night, he’s been a really nice surprise. That said, he’s still basically a Double-A level prospect and expectations should be very low for the fun to continue until he’s had a year to consolidate his progress.

For me, the real surprise is Michael Fulmer. The former AL Rookie of the Year has been in the wilderness for several seasons after elbow and knee surgeries, and didn’t look very promising upon his limited return action in 2020. I was expecting him to be a solid part of the bullpen as he worked to build up his arm and his velo in the first half. Instead he’s really turned a corner over the past three weeks and is pitching as well as he has in years. The max velo isn’t quite back to pre-surgery levels, but leaning on his slider and changeup in the interim has paid dividends as he looks sharper with both secondary offerings so far.

2. Who is one player from the Tigers who Pirates fans would be surprised by in this series?

Well some of you may be pretty surprised to see Derek Holland in our bullpen. Holland was actually pumping 95 consistently this spring and looked really good in camp. Unfortunately, he’s regressed back into the pitcher he’s always been with too much vulnerability to right-handed pitchers to remain viable for long. Dude needs a cutter. And yes, this means what you think it means...our bullpen has a few good arms but is otherwise another pretty sketchy unit, continuing our long tradition.

3. What is your prediction for the series?

I think the Tigers needed a day off after a tough 10-game road trip that took them to Cleveland, Houston, and Oakland. The offense is not at all impressive, but the rotation has been pretty good. I think they’ll rebound to take 2 of the 3 games, but I expect them all to be pretty scrappy games that could go either way.