Game 42 Preview: Can Brieske get the Tigers back on course?

Bless You Boys

The Detroit Tigers were unable to take the opener against the Minnesota Twins on Monday night in the first of a three-game midweek set in the Twin Cities. Down early after Elvin Rodriguez struggled in the opening frame of his first major league start, the Motor City Kitties fought back valiantly but ultimately fell short, 5-4. However, Miguel Cabrera continued his turn-back-the-clock tour going 2-for-5, passing Lou Brock for sole possession of the No. 28 spot on the all-time hit list.

Tuesday offers another opportunity to get back at the American League Central Division leaders as the Tigers send one of their young rookies to the mound to face a grizzled veteran who could give Detroit fits. Take a look below at the two starting pitchers and what they bring to the table.

Detroit Tigers (14-27) vs. Minnesota Twins (26-16)

Time/Place: 7:40 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Beau Briske (0-3, 5.13 ERA) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (1-1, 3.48 ERA)

Game 42 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Brieske 26.1 13.2 9.6 6.67 -0.4
Gray 20.2 28.7 10.3 3.88 0.3

Beau Brieske has had a promising start to his major league career despite numbers that seemingly appear to the contrary, as is often the case with young hurlers. The former 27th-round pick out of Colorado State-Pueblo has started five games so far for the Tigers, giving his team at least five frames of work every time out — though he is prone to surrendering a few runs, especially the longball.

The 24-year-old’s best performance came against the Los Angeles Dodgers when he outdueled Clayton Kershaw for a Tigers victory, tossing five frames of one-run ball (a solo home run) along with three strikeouts. The other end of the pendulum was his last game against the Tampa Bay Rays in which he gave up six runs on nine hits and a walk while striking out four in 5 13 innings. His two home runs allowed was the third time this season he has allowed a pair to fly over the wall.

The right-hander’s pitching proclivities have remained static, laying heavily on his four-seam fastball (94.2 mph) while mixing in a changeup (80.8 mph) and slider (85.1 mph), according to Baseball Savant, which he uses respectively. He also offers a curveball (77.6 mph) that serves as more of a show-me pitch while Statcast is still picking up a rare sinker (94.1 mph) here and there.

Sonny Gray is in his first year with the Twins after coming over in a trade that brought him and Francis Peguero to Minnesota from the Cincinnati Reds for Chase Petty back in March. Now in his 10th major league season and his fourth franchise, the former first-round pick has settled in with his new surroundings, allowing no more than two runs in any of his outings, though he also failed to reach the five-inning mark in four of his five starts.

The 32-year-old gets by with a robust arsenal consisting of sinker (91.8 mph), four-seam fastball (91.4 mph), curveball (78.7 mph), slider (81.3 mph), cutter (82.6 mph) and changeup (88.2 mph), according to Baseball Savant. Gray employs those pitches at a 32.2%, 26.3%, 20.4%, 13.3%, 6.8% and 1.2% clip, respectively, showing that his former three pitches get the bulk of the work while the latter three simply fill out the quiver. He is doing quite well in a few of the 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings, landing in the 93rd percentile in fastball spin rate, 86th in curve spin rate, 81th in strikeout percentage and 74th in expected batting average, though he also has an Achilles heel in the fastball velocity (18th), barrel percentage (14th) and chase rate (12th) categories.

Key Matchup: Tigers’ bats vs. Gray

Minnesota’s starter looks like a tough matchup for Detroit but the man is not immortal. The problem is that the Tigers’ offense is just so anemic right now, sitting at No. 27 in batting average (.220), as well as No. 29 in on-base percentage (.283), slugging (.318) and OPS (.601), while dead last in dingers (22). Gray is not necessarily the best matchup for this team given the categories that he excels in, but he has enough weaknesses that the batters should be able to crack him with some patience. The Olde English D will need to plate some runs in support of Brieske or else this could be the beginning of another losing streak.

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