Struggling starters up next for Tigers, Cubs

MLB

The long ball led to Jon Lester’s shortest outing of the season last week.

The veteran Chicago Cubs left-hander will try to solve that issue when he starts the finale of a three-game series in Detroit on Wednesday.

Lester surrendered four homers in 3 2/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox on Friday and was tagged with his first loss in five starts.

“They have, obviously, some damaging power,” Lester said afterward. “They’re confident against lefties. They’re swinging the bat well against them. And if you’re not executing, if you’re in there for 100 pitches and you’re not executing 99 of them, they’re going to make you pay.”

The White Sox rank third in the major leagues in home runs. The Tigers don’t possess as much power as their American League Central rival, but they’re no slouches. After hitting the fewest homers in the majors last season, Detroit is tied for 12th in homers this year.

Lester (2-1, 5.06 ERA) gave up two homers to Milwaukee in his previous start, which resulted in a no-decision. He only allowed a total of two runs in his first three starts.

In 12 career starts against the Tigers, he is 3-6 with a 5.67 ERA. Half of those starts came at Detroit’s Comerica Park, where he is 2-2 with a 5.56 ERA.

Detroit starter Michael Fulmer is also coming off a poor outing in which he allowed five runs on five hits in three innings at Cleveland on Friday.

Coming off Tommy John surgery, Fulmer is on a three-inning limit. He had a scoreless outing against the White Sox on Aug. 10 but has given up three or more runs in his other four starts.

“I’ve got no excuses at this point,” Fulmer said after his last start. “It’s tough and frustrating for me. Kind of an awful feeling. I feel like I’m trying something new each time out. I just have to find something that works.”

Fulmer (0-0, 9.53 ERA) has started against the Cubs only once in his career, a no-decision during the 2018 season in which he gave up three runs in six innings.

The innings limit has magnified every mistake Fulmer has made.

“It kills me to try and go out there every fifth day and try to be perfect,” he said, “but I’m not giving up. I’ve been working hard. I truly believe the best is yet to come. Last year was such a long road, such a long year for me — it’s going to pay off. It’s just going to take some time for me.”

The teams split the first two games of the series. The Cubs pounded their way to a 9-3 victory on Monday, and the Tigers responded with a 7-1 romp on Tuesday.

Spotty offense has been a problem for the Cubs lately despite leading the National League Central. They have scored two or fewer runs in three of their past five games.

Key players Javier Baez (.220), Kyle Schwarber (.221), Anthony Rizzo (.214) and Willson Contreras (.216) are hitting well below their career averages.

“We’re going to live and die with our core guys,” manager David Ross said Monday at the start of the series. “We’re going to be as good as those guys are. That’s going to be our strength. Those are the guys who are going to carry the day for us. Those are the guys, if we want to go to the place that we expect to go to, those guys have to be good.”

–Field Level Media

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