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Tigers vs. White Sox Preview: This winning thing is a lot more fun than the losing

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With so many games against the rest of the AL Central coming up, the Tigers might pick up a few more W’s in the coming weeks.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers are not going to make the playoffs. Shocker, I know. With almost two months remaining in the regular season, many fans have already resorted to the same mentality they held last August and September: lose as many games as possible to help improve draft position.

Here’s my analysis: losing sucks. While it may be in the organization’s best interest to all but forfeit their remaining 43 games and grab their second consecutive No. 1 overall pick, it’s not fun to watch. The final two months of the season last year were miserable, and I, writer for a website that focuses on this team, would rather not endure that sequence of events again.

Luckily, we might not have to. The Tigers are on pace to lose 94 games at the moment, but their upcoming schedule is as soft as you could ask for. Detroit plays 28 of their final 43 games against AL Central competition, and only three of those games are against the Cleveland Indians. The remaining games outside of the division come against better competition — the St. Louis Cardinals are the only upcoming non-divisional opponent not currently holding a playoff spot — but a fair number of those are at Comerica Park, where the Tigers are a respectable 32-28 this year.

So, instead of tanking for the bottom of the standings, I’m hoping they win as many games as possible. They won’t come anywhere close to the postseason, but getting above the 70-win mark would be a nice consolation prize. It’s certainly possible.

Chicago White Sox (42-76) at Detroit Tigers (50-69)

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 Lucas Giolito (7-9, 6.23 ERA) vs. LHP Blaine Hardy (4-4, 3.63 ERA)

Game 122 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Liriano 95.2 18.5 13.4 5.32 0.0
Santana 20.2 15.2 6.5 6.74 -0.2

For those expecting the Tigers to return to contention in 2020 or 2021, let Lucas Giolito’s 2018 season serve as a cautionary tale. It’s still far too early to declare the 23-year-old Giolito a bust — though people were leaning that way even before he was traded to Chicago — but this year has been a rude awakening, to say the least. Giolito has a 6.23 ERA in 125 23 innings, by far the worst in baseball among qualified pitchers. His 6.00 FIP and -0.6 fWAR also sit dead last.

So why do the White Sox keep running him out there? Because there have been flashes of the top-end arm they hoped they were trading for in December 2016. Giolito has limited opponents to two runs or fewer in seven of his 23 outings this season, and all of those went 5 23 innings or longer. His three best starts of the season (per Game Score) have all come since July 8, and he limited opponents to three hits or fewer in all three. He may get blown up on the regular — the Yankees roughed him up for seven runs on August 8 — but that doesn’t make 2018 a total loss.

Key matchup: White Sox hitters vs. dominant starter Blaine Hardy

While no one would confuse Hardy’s breakout season with that of a true No. 1 starter, he has looked the part against the White Sox. In two starts against Chicago this year, Hardy has limited the Sox to just two runs on nine hits in 12 13 innings. He has nine strikeouts to just one walk during that span, and a pair of wins to boot.

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, though; the Sox have a paltry 88 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this season.

Prediction

Hardy picks up his fifth win with another strong outing.

Gameday reading