Thursday’s game between the Mets and Tigers isn’t an ordinary matchup. Justin Verlander will be making his Mets debut — and he’ll be doing it against his former team. Verlander will face Eduardo Rodriguez, who’s quietly been excellent as the leader of Detroit’s rotation. The Mets enter as road favorites at -180 on the money line.
Let’s make predictions for Thursday’s matchup and take a look at why the Tigers can’t be ignored.
Mets vs. Tigers Prediction
This doesn’t feel like a game the Mets are guaranteed to run away with. Verlander is no sure thing as he makes his season debut, and he’s not going to last very long even in the best-case scenario. His return to Detroit is a nice story, but it’s going to take more than him for New York to win comfortably.
The way Rodriguez has pitched this season is the biggest reason why the Tigers can keep it close. E-Rod has been nothing short of dominant over his last four starts, keeping hits and walks low. He allows the occasional home run, which could burn him against a Mets team that hits a few of them, but his rock-solid control should allow him to fare well against New York’s lineup.
The Tigers’ offense and bullpen have both blown games for Rodriguez this season. While the offense has come around a bit so far in this series, it still makes much more sense to roll with Tigers +1.5, even at -110, rather than putting faith in Detroit to win a close game outright.
Mets vs. Tigers: Tigers +1.5 (-110)
Mets vs. Tigers Odds
The Mets enter as decisive road favorites at -180 on the moneyline. The over/under is 7.5 runs, and you can get Mets -1.5 at -110.
New York is clearly better than Detroit, and oddsmakers are putting their faith in Justin Verlander to show little rust against a bad Tigers lineup. Is Rodriguez being overlooked after how dominant he’s been this season?
Mets vs. Tigers Key Matchups
Here are the key matchups that could decide Mets vs. Tigers.
Justin Verlander vs. Rust
Considering the way the Tigers have hit this year (and last year, and the year before that), this is a soft landing spot for Verlander. He’s unlikely to come in and get pummeled even on Detroit’s best day. That doesn’t mean rust can’t affect him, especially in what could be a low-scoring game.
Verlander is 40 years old and dealt with an injury to his throwing arm. Can a Tigers team averaging an MLB-low 3.26 runs per game take advantage of a pitcher who is unlikely to be fully up to speed? It’s worth noting Javier Baez has been hitting much better of late and could be a landmine for Verlander to navigate in a lineup that doesn’t have many others.
Whether he pitches well or not, it’s unlikely Verlander will stay in the game for more than five innings as Buck Showalter eases him back into action.
Mets Lineup vs. Eduardo Rodriguez’s Control
Rodriguez has been a revelation for the Tigers after a lost 2022 season, allowing just 2 ER over his last four starts. E-Rod’s home run rate is near where it’s been throughout his career, but he’s kept hits low and notably hasn’t walked more than two batters in a start.
With just three walks in his last four starts, Rodriguez’s control could allow him to outduel Verlander. The Mets are one of three teams averaging at least four walks per game, with Brandon Nimmo, Mark Canha, and even Jeff McNeil as some of their most patient hitters. This will be a key battle on Thursday. Will Rodriguez take away something the Mets do very well, or will New York’s balanced lineup represent a tougher challenge for the left-hander?
It’s worth noting the Mets hit slightly worse against lefties, though the disparity isn’t as large as it was last season.
Mets vs. Tigers Starting Lineups
Mets Starting Lineup
CF Brandon Nimmo L
RF Starling Marte R
SS Francisco Lindor S
1B Pete Alonso R
2B Jeff McNeil L
DH Daniel Vogelbach L
LF Mark Canha R
3B Brett Baty L
C Francisco Alvarez R
Tigers Starting Lineup
2B Zach McKinstry L
CF Riley Greene L
SS Javier Baez R
3B Nick Maton L
1B Spencer Torkelson R
LF Akil Baddoo L
RF Matt Vierling R
C Jake Rogers R
DH Andy Ibanez R