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Tigers vs. White Sox Preview: Detroit offense looking for answers in series finale

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Jordan Zimmermann will try to deliver a series split for the Tigers on Sunday.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers (23-26) at Chicago White Sox (22-26)

Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (4-3, 5.86 ERA) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (3-5, 4.55 ERA)

Game 50 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Zimmermann 50.2 13.7 7.1 6.24 -0.3
Gonzalez 55.1 13.5 8.2 4.83 0.4

When the Tigers faced off against Miguel Gonzalez at the end of April, he looked like a sure regression candidate. He had a 2.00 ERA in his first four starts of the season, but was benefitting from a .244 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). He was also preventing home runs at a much better rate than in years past, and his 4.76 xFIP suggested that regression would hit soon.

The Tigers made sure that happened, scoring seven runs (six earned) off Gonzalez in six innings. His ERA jumped to 3.27 and, save for a bounce-back start in his next outing, hasn’t been anywhere close ever since. Gonzalez has allowed five runs in each of his past three starts, all losses. That losing streak actually extends back to his start against Detroit, making it five Gonzalez outings in a row that the White Sox have lost.

At the heart of Gonzalez’s issues is the home run ball. He limited opponents to just two home runs in his first four starts, all wins. Including the beatdown in Detroit, Gonzalez has allowed six home runs in his last five starts. His ERA is an unsightly 6.99 during that stretch, and opponents have benefitted from a .340 BABIP.

Naturally, Gonzalez’s true talent level is somewhere in the middle. He has pitched well in his three home starts, but was roughed up by the lowly San Diego Padres in the last one.

Key matchup: Miguel Cabrera vs. a surefire slump-buster

We still have yet to see the real Miguel Cabrera in 2017. His batting average has not eclipsed .275 at any point this season, and he current hits at .256 with a paltry .771 OPS. He went 0-for-8 with a pair of walks during Saturday’s doubleheader, and is just 4-for-20 with one double on the road trip.

Luckily, today might be the day that Cabrera gets going. He has done very well against White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez in his career, with seven hits (including a home run) in 16 plate appearances. His teammates have also fared well, with Jose Iglesias (1.029 OPS in 20 plate appearances) leading the way. The Tigers need Cabrera to produce if they are to shake their recent offensive doldrums. This might be the game to get him on track.

Outlook

While the Tigers were able to grind out a win in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader, their offense has sputtered in a big way lately. They have been held to two runs or fewer in five of their past eight games, and are scoring just 4.32 runs per game in May, just below the season-long league average. They have been even worse on the road this season, with just 4.19 runs scored per game. One silver lining: the Tigers handled Gonzalez well in their last meeting, with seven runs on 14 hits in six innings.

Prediction

The offense sputters again and the Tigers drop the series finale.