In the midst of the most chaotic summer in recent memory, the Detroit Tigers are doing their best to keep the fanbase excited, heading into Tuesday night’s game four games over the .500 mark a quarter of the way through the month of August. You probably do not want to know what the Motor City Kitties’ record was at this point last season, but I am going to tell you anyways: 35-81, after a 10-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals at home.
The Tigers have the fourth best record in the American League on August 11. To some of us, it's always been a great baseball town— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) August 11, 2020
Sure, the Tigers have not faced a team with any real teeth yet, but the mantra has always been to beat the bad teams and bring your A-game against the good ones; we have seen quite a bit of the former, and hopefully we will see the later when we reach that portion of the schedule.
In the meantime, the good guys host the Chicago White Sox tonight — the second of a three-game set — looking to clinch another series victory after taking the opener on Monday night, 5-1. The Tigers will send lefthander Tyler Alexander, who has been quite a pleasant surprise thus far in the bullpen, to the mound to face off with fellow southpaw Gio González.
Detroit Tigers (9-5) vs. Chicago White Sox (8-9)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Probables: LHP Tyler Alexander (1-0, 1.17 ERA) vs. LHP Gio González (0-1, 7.71 ERA)
Game 17 Pitching Matchup
Gio González is a 13-year veteran who has had his share of ups and downs throughout his lengthy career, but for the most part he has been a reliable innings-eater at worst and an All-Star and Cy Young candidate at best. However, three games into this season he is having a bit of trouble getting things going, failing to throw more than 4 1⁄3 innings in his trio appearances — two of them starts — getting roughed up against the Minnesota Twins on July 26 and the Milwaukee Brewers on August 6, the latter earning him his first loss of the year.
For contrast, last season González threw 87 1⁄3 innings for the Brew Crew, notching a healthy 3.50 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP, striking out 78 while walking 37 en route to a 3-2 record in Milwaukee. So far in this sample-size shortened campaign, he has a 2.31 WHIP to accompany his bloated ERA, though he has managed to send 12 batters down on strikes while walking seven. Long story short, this is not the same pitcher we have seen in the past right now, and if he cannot find his groove in Detroit on Tuesday, the Tigers have a good chance of pouncing on him early to give their young hurler a chance at winning his first start of 2020.
Key Matchup: Tyler Alexander vs. himself
One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the emergence of 26-year-old Tyler Alexander as a legitimate major league pitcher, providing a much-needed boost in relief and earning a spot in the starting rotation in the process. The Tigers’ second round pick of the 2015 draft held his own in his 2019 rookie campaign, posting a 4.86 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP over 53 2⁄3 innings, with a 20 percent strikeout and 3 percent walk rate; he also produced ground balls at a 36 percent rate while allowing line drives at a 25.8 percent clip.
Looking at Alexander’s numbers this season, there are both similarities and differences. When comparing, his average fastball velocity has been almost unchanged between the two seasons, throwing 90.7 and 90.6 mph in 2019 and 2020, respectively, while his groundball rate also remains practically unchanged at 36.4 percent this season; his walk rate has nudged up slightly, rising to 3.8 percent.
In contrast, his strikeout rate in 2020 is an unsustainable 50 percent — inflated by his 10 strikeout outing against the Cincinnati Reds on August 3 — versus the more characteristic rate of 20 percent he put up in 2019, while his linedrive rate spiked up to 36.4 percent, which suggests his high K rate plus a bit of luck is what has sustained him in his hot start. But who is to say he cannot keep this up? It will be up to the second-year greenhorn to come in prepared to give his best if he is going to continue prove his mettle in the majors.