DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers haven’t taken the field in five days, but when they return Friday, they’ll face what looks like an absolute must-win series for their playoff hopes.
Detroit is traveling to Pittsburgh for a three-game series with the Pirates, who, at 3-10, are currently the worst team in baseball. The Tigers need to win two or three of these games to stay in the playoff race.
That’s because each of the team’s next 35 games after the Pirates series will come against legitimate playoff contenders.
Starting Monday, the Tiger will play 35 games in 35 days -- two doubleheaders, two off days and 31 single-game days -- against the Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers.
The Pirates and Kansas City Royals are the only non-contenders the Tigers will face this season, and they already blew a chance to win a four-game series against the Royals, splitting 2-2 at Comerica Park.
This are the only three games the Tigers will play against Pittsburgh this season, and there are only six more contests against Kansas City. The Tigers absolutely have to take advantage of those games to stay in the hunt.
It’s a surprise to see the Tigers at 5-5 this season, though the Cincinnati Reds are off to a bit of a disappointing start, so that season series split isn’t quite as impressive.
With 16 teams getting into the playoffs this season, the Tigers likely have to win at least around 28 of 60 games to be in the mix. Even though nobody is complaining about a .500 start, it would look a lot better if the Tigers had been able to salvage one game of the doubleheader Sunday against the Reds.
Think about the nine remaining games against the Royals and Reds. If the Tigers find a way to go 7-2 in those games, they would only have to go 16-25 against the rest of the schedule to finish with 28 wins.
But a 4-5 finish in the aforementioned games would require the Tigers to go 19-22 against the better teams, which seems unlikely.
It’ll be up to Matt Boyd to get the Tigers off on the right foot. He’s been bad in both of his first two starts, and considering he’ll only make around 12 starts during this shortened season, the Tigers need their ace to turn it around immediately.
Chad Kuhl is scheduled to start for the Pirates.