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Tigers vs. White Sox Preview: Let’s try that fifth starter thing again

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Artie Lewicki gets his chance to keep a spot in the rotation on Monday against the White Sox.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

So much for that “Jacob Turner returns to Detroit and finally reaches his full potential” fantasy. The 27-year-old only lasted one inning on the mound in Anaheim against the Angels, and about one week on the 25-man roster. The Tigers designated him for assignment to make room for righthander Zach McAllister late last week, putting his future in limbo once again.

The next candidate for a starter role won’t be McAllister, though; it’s righthander Artie Lewicki, who will start against Chicago on Monday. Lewicki, 26, has enjoyed a solid sophomore season out of the bullpen for the Tigers, but his numbers as a starter are lacking. He has a 3.87 FIP and a strikeout rate near 20 percent in 10 appearances as a reliever this year, but has given up seven runs (five earned) in just 8 23 innings across two starts.

Of course, those two starts came against two of the best offenses in baseball — the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. The White Sox are not on that level, to say the least, though they are hitting for more power lately. Can Lewicki put together a more complete effort against a subpar Chicago lineup this evening, or will his struggles as a starting pitcher continue?

Chicago White Sox (42-75) at Detroit Tigers (49-69)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Reynaldo Lopez (4-9, 4.30 ERA) vs. RHP Artie Lewicki (0-2, 4.76 ERA)

Game 121 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Rodon 72.1 19.9 9.6 4.36 0.9
Zimmermann 83.2 21.0 4.6 4.14 1.3

Lopez has already faced the Tigers twice this season, and while his ERA is a shiny 2.07, results have been fairly mixed. He dominated Detroit in an early April matchup, limiting them to just two hits in seven scoreless innings. He also walked five hitters in that meeting, however. Then, in a rematch on June 15, Lopez didn’t walk a batter, but gave up three runs on nine hits. The raw totals are pretty — he has allowed 16 baserunners in 13 innings against the Tigers this year — but there’s more volatility here than those figures suggest.

This is how Lopez’s entire season has gone, more or less. He has danced around bouts of wildness to post shiny ERA totals — he has two separate outings this year where he has gone seven scoreless innings despite walking four batters or more — but has gotten knocked around at times too. Prior to two strong starts to open the month of August, Lopez gave up 18 runs in 17 innings across his final three starts in July.

The scouting report is otherwise the same as before. Lopez throws his four-seam fastball a lot (60 percent usage over the past three seasons), and he throws it very hard, averaging 96 miles per hour this year. His slider is his off-speed pitch of choice, but he also mixes in a curveball and changeup. The slider has generated a few whiffs this year (19.3 percent whiff rate) but that hasn’t translated to the kind of strikeout totals you would expect from someone with his incredible raw stuff.

Key matchup: Jeimer Candelario vs. Reynaldo Lopez

We’ve spoken before about how nice it would be to see Candelario finish the year strong. That... hasn’t happened. Candelario is hitting just .233/.269/.342 since the All-Star break, and is only slightly better since the beginning of August. Things might go from bad to worse for him in this game, as he is 0-for-9 in his career against Lopez. While this is still a small sample of plate appearances, extreme performances like this make you wonder if one player just happens to have the upper hand, larger statistical trends be damned. Here’s hoping we’re wrong and Candelario can go on a bit of a tear over the final six weeks of the season.

Prediction

Lewicki goes five strong innings but the Tigers offense hangs him out to dry.

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