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MLB: Spotlight on youth — and history — as Tigers visit Royals

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The Detroit Tigers and Royals will wrap up a three-game series Sunday in Kansas City in a contest featuring pitchers who could face each other in the American League Central for years to come.

The game will feature former 2018 first-round draft picks squaring off on the mound. Right-handers Casey Mize (3-3, 3.69 ERA), the first overall pick by the Tigers, will face left-hander Kris Bubic (0-0, 0.96 ERA), the fourth of four first-round picks by the Royals that year.

The series is tied at a game apiece after the Royals defeated the Tigers 7-5 Saturday. The Tigers scored two runs in the ninth and had the bases loaded with one out. But Josh Staumont struck out Jonathan Schoop and Willi Castro to end the game.

Still, the Tigers have won nine of their past 12 games. Starting pitching has been a big reason for their recent success.

Mize, 24, made his debut last season and finished 0-3 in seven starts. He picked up his first MLB win in his second start this season, throwing seven shutout innings against the Houston Astros. He then lost his next three starts when he gave up 14 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings.

He seems to have righted the ship, winning his past two starts, including a 4-2 victory over the Royals May 12. He’s allowed three earned runs in 13 2/3 innings in those two starts. In his most reacent start, he pitched 7 2/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners. He wasn’t happy being pulled in the eighth.

“I love it,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said of Mize’s reaction. “Casey was mad from the minute that I stepped on the field. He gave up that leadoff homer (to Tom Murphy). He was never facing (Mariners top prospect Jarred) Kelenic. He had three hitters to get three outs and he gave up the homer, so I went and got him.”

Mize is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in his career against the Royals.

Bubic, 23, made his debut in 2020 as well, but he didn’t make the Opening Day roster because of a rough spring. He made his season debut May 2 in Minnesota. After pitching back-to-back five-inning-plus appearances out of the bullpen, he got his first start May 18 against Milwaukee.

He earned a second start with six scoreless innings in which he allowed one hit and three baserunners. He extended his scoreless-innings streak to 17 2/3 innings.

“That’s really what we’ve seen almost every time out so far,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s doing such a great job of using everything. He’s just in a real good rhythm. I think you can see the big differences. He’s trusting his stuff, not trying to reach back for any extra, but it’s got plenty of life, especially when he starts mixing in his off-speed (pitches).”

Bubic has faced the Tigers twice, including one start. He’s 0-0 with a 3.72 ERA.

Sunday will be Salute to the Negro Leagues Day in Kansas City, where the Negro Leagues were founded 101 years ago. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the city’s historic Jazz District is a favorite destination for out-of-town players, including a group of Tigers who visited before the first game of the series on Friday. The Tigers will don the uniforms of the Detroit Stars, while the Royals will wear Kansas City Monarchs uniforms.

–Field Level Media

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