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Tigers vs. White Sox Preview: Red Bull to the rescue

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The Tiger bats need to find a way to support their horse, and break this losing streak.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After a hot start, the Detroit Tigers have crumbled, losing eight in a row. Translate to a 60 game season and that’s the equivalent of a 22 game losing streak. The tailspin is not yet unrecoverable, but something is really going to have to change with this offense, because the competition isn’t going to get any easier when the Tigers leave Chicago.

They’ll play the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, and Minnesota Twins as their next three opponents. This is the gauntlet that could sink the season by the halfway point. They need to stop the bleeding here and now.

Fortunately, the Tigers have their horse, relatively speaking, going for them tonight. Spencer Turnbull will put his home run prevention skills to the test against a power packed White Sox lineup tonight and look to sustain a pretty strong start.

On Wednesday night, the Tigers reshuffled their lineup, ostensibly with the help of their analytics department, but it didn’t do much good even against a starter making his major league debut. The Tigers put Jeimer Candelario in the leadoff slot in hopes of taking advantage of his ability to get on base.

Candelario responded with a two-hit game, including a three-run home run in the fifth inning. His teammates were unmoved, with the rest of the lineup collecting just three hits and striking out 10 times. Probably there’s just nothing to be done, though I daresay the analytics department isn’t the reason rookie Isaac Paredes was batting ninth last night.

Miguel Cabrera is in late career Victor Martinez territory, and other than JaCoby Jones hot start, which is rapidly cooling, the outfielders production has been absolutely atrocious. The Tigers could expect catching prospect Jake Rogers to outdo Grayson Greiner’s .417 OPS as well, but in the end there just isn’t any real help on the way this season.

Meanwhile, we’re getting a long look at what a strong rebuilding effort looks like over in the other dugout. The White Sox are absolutely stacked with good young hitters, their farm system is still strong at the top, and they continue to rehabilitate arms into a strong relief core.

Detroit Tigers (9-13) at Chicago White Sox (14-11)

Time/Place: 2:10 pm CT, Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Probables: RHP Spencer Turnbull (2-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. RHP Lucas Giolito (1-2, 4.88 ERA)

Game 23 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% HR/9 FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% HR/9 FIP fWAR
Turnbull 22.2 22.6 11.8 0.00 2.88 0.7
Giolito 27.2 27.4 12.8 0.98 4.08 0.5

After a relative reprieve last night, the Tigers hitters will be sorely tested again on Thursday night as last year’s breakout star, Lucas Giolito, takes the bump for the Pale Hose. The 26-year-old is a former high-end prospect who took a few years to figure things out. He was drafted and came up through the Washington Nationals organization before being packaged to the White Sox in a deal for outfielder Adam Eaton during the 2016-2017 offseason.

Giolito struggled in 2018, looking very much like the walks and home run prone sinkerballer he was. The White Sox performed what should be a familiar operation on the huge right-hander, excising his floundering sinker from the repertoire in place of an emphasis on his fourseam fastball and solid changeup. The results in 2019 were fantastic.

Giolito nearly doubled his career strikeout rate and improved his command without the need to pound the bottom of the zone. He trimmed his walk rate from ghastly levels to about league average, and rode these improvements to a sixth place finish in voting for the American League Cy Young.

So far, through five starts, the improvements have carried over for the most part. A five walk performance against Cleveland on August 9 has Giolito’s walk rate looking the worse for wear, but in truth he’s looked very much like the 2019 edition. We could say the same for Spencer Turnbull as well, but he’s going to need run support. Against a Tigers’ lineup that is scaring no one, Giolito is going to have little concern about pounding the zone and taking his chances.

Key Matchup: Candelario and Goodrum need to set the table

On the surface, the Tigers look to have the advantage in the starting pitching matchup. The walks have been a bit of a problem for Turnbull recently, but he still hasn’t given up a home run, and overall has been very tough to hit. The problem is finding him enough run support for the Tigers to hold on and break this eight-game losing streak.

The keys to doing so are with the two hitters tasked with setting the table.

Jeimer Candelario’s move to the leadoff spot seems like something they’re going to stick with, while Niko Goodrum appears locked into the two-hole for the time being. The pair have hit well against Giolito in your expected small samples, posting an .864 OPS and an .844 OPS for Goodrum. JaCoby Jones has also had some success, though no Tigers hitter has faced Giolito more than 14 times.

For this offense to break through, Candelario and Goodrum are going to have to get the party started early. Once Giolito settles in, he tends to be tough. Miguel Cabrera is struggling to lift the ball, and while Jonathan Schoop has been productive in this series, the Tigers are still searching for someone to provide a little power out of the five-spot as well. Getting on base is no guarantee of anything, but if the Tigers 1-2 can get on base and force Giolito to work hard from the beginning, they may have a shot.

Prediction

Well you can’t lose forever, in theory, so we’ll say this is the night the offense comes through with a couple of key hits. Spencer Turnbull has been tough on opposing hitters and will hopefully contain the power packed White Sox lineup long enough for the Tigers to scratch out some runs and ultimately hang on.