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Series Preview 9/7-9: Cardinals at Tigers

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A trio of ballgames in the Motor City

MLB: Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After a series victory in Washington, the 78-62 Cardinals continue their road trip in Detroit, Michigan, where they will play a three-game series with the Tigers at Comerica Park. The series will start on Friday, after a mutual day off on Thursday.

St. Louis enters Friday trailing the Brewers by a half-game for the top National League Wild Card spot. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks each sit within 2 1⁄2 games of a Wild Card spot. The 83-57 Cubs lead the Central division by 4 12 games over Milwaukee and will play the Nationals over the weekend. Over in the American League Central, the 57-83 Tigers are mathematically eliminated from contention for a postseason berth; the 80-60 Indians hold a 16.5-game lead over the second-place, 63-76 Twins, then followed by Detroit and the Royals.

In the first game of this interleague series, two southpaws are set to toe the rubber, as Daniel Norris will meet with Austin Gomber at 6:10 PM Central time. Norris’s season - his third full year with the Tigers - has been sculpted by an early injury. The 25-year-old was placed on the disabled list in late April with a groin strain and was not active until early August. After nearly a month of rehab across several levels of the farm system, Norris returned to the mound for a start against the Yankees on 9/1. In the outing, Norris allowed two runs in 4 13 innings with seven strikeouts, his most in a game since June of 2017.

Gomber will come in to Friday trying to translate a dazzling August in to the final month of the regular season. Across six starts last month, Gomber posted a 2.45 ERA across 33 innings with 27 strikeouts. Each of those starts came against different teams, and Gomber will add another team to his list of opponents when he meets these Tigers. Right-handed batters have combined to hit just .215 off Gomber, compared to the .292 mark the lefties have managed.

Saturday’s contest will feature Matt Boyd and Jack Flaherty around 5:10 PM. Boyd has logged a career-high 153 innings this season, his third as a full-time starter for Detroit. Boyd enters the series in the midst of his best stretch of the season: a 0.96 WHIP over his last seven starts. The left-handed Boyd has been tough at Comerica Park, with a 2.56 ERA in a dozen starts. We’ll see if St. Louis - a 41-31 team on the road as the weekend opens - can alter that trend.

Flaherty has continued to be a strong point of St. Louis’s rotation and has built a notable case to be a National League Rookie of the Year finalist. The 22-year-old has surrendered a total of five earned runs on 17 hits over his last six starts with 43 strikeouts. Flaherty leads all MLB rookie pitchers with 154 punchouts in 127 13 frames; Joey Lucchesi of the Padres is next, with 120. This will be Flaherty’s fourth start against an American League squad and his 13th start on the road.

This three-game meeting will conclude on Sunday, with a matchup of Michael Fulmer and John Gant at 12:10 PM. Fulmer, a first-round pick of the Mets back in 2011 and the Rookie of the Year in 2016, will make his 23rd start of the season. Fulmer missed over a month with an oblique strain and returned to the mound on 8/24 after going down in mid-July. Fulmer’s 44.3 percent groundball rate is the lowest of his career, while the 17 home runs he has surrendered are a career high.

The last two starts for Gant have been scoreless, and he has allowed just one earned run over his last 17 innings. Gant has been able to limit the long ball this season, with a 0.66 HR/9 rate over 96 total innings. Six of the seven home runs off Gant were hit by left-handed batters, so we are likely to see Jeimer Candelario and Victor Martinez get their swings in from the left side.