Detroit at Chicago Preview: Things are not great right now

Bless You Boys

Remember sweeping the Astros? Ah, to go back to two weeks ago. Since then, the Detroit Tigers have lost a pair of four-game series and two of three against the Royals, dropping their record down to 7-16, already eight games back in the division. While this whole season will not be this bad (right? please?) the fact that it is not even April yet is not a good sign.

The Tigers now head to Chicago to take on a rising White Sox squad. Winners of six of their last seven, this is not exactly an encouraging matchup for a slumping team, but maybe Tuesday’s starter can help reverse the course. Jose Ureña enters after two very positive starts, and perhaps he can keep his team in the game.

After a rough debut outing, Ureña has really turned things around, throwing back-to-back quality starts featuring just two runs over seven innings in each. His 7.9 K/9 rate may be modest, but he features a 4.8 percent barrel rate and has not given up a homer since his first start. He should be good enough to give the Tigers a chance.

Detroit Tigers (7-16) at Chicago White Sox (12-9)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP José Ureña (0-3, 4.57 ERA) vs. RHP Lucas Giolito (1-1, 5.79 ERA)

Game 24 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Ureña 21.2 20.4 12.9 3.60 0.4
Giolito 18.2 32.1 8.6 3.53 0.4

Ignore the ERA; this is not the pitcher the Tigers want to see. Lucas Giolito has posted ERAs of 3.41 and 3.48 in his last two seasons, and his current 3.53 FIP indicates that he is still pitching at a high level despite one bad start. Last week he surrendered seven runs on eight hits (including a pair of homers) and two walks to Boston, but before that he had only allowed five runs in over 17 innings. Chalk it up to a fluky night.

Giolito took a long time to find himself as a major league pitcher, but for the past two seasons he’s been one of the best in the game. Apart from dramatically improved fastball command, the pitch that really took him to the next level is his changeup. It’s a rather rare riding changeup, looking very much like a fastball until it drops off the table late. Despite over 11 mph velocity separation from his average 93.3 mph fastball, the pitch is really hard for hitters to differentiate from the heater when Giolito is dialed in.

Detroit should be terrified of his 12.5 K/9 rate, which is absolute poison for a team leading the majors in strikeouts. The offense is currently dead with no plan for revival, so this one could get pretty ugly. Miguel Cabrera is back, but there are not many reinforcements to call to save this lineup. It is just hard to see where the runs will come from.

Key matchup: Jose Ureña vs. reality

2017 and 2018 were great for Ureña with ERAs under 4.00, but the past two seasons have been quite the opposite. His last two outings have shown some promise, but he will need to keep pitching at this level for a bit longer to truly prove he is back. The Tigers are not expecting the world from him and do not need him to pitch well — aside from eating up some innings — but if he can outperform expectations, Ureña would be a great asset at the trade deadline. The White Sox are a tough lineup for any pitcher, but he may be uniquely positioned to frustrate their right-handed power hitters if he can avoid mistakes in the heart of the strike zone.

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