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Tigers at White Sox Preview: Detroit hopes to even up final series

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Rookie Matt Manning takes the mound for the last time in 2021 looking for a win.

Syndication: DetroitFreePress Junfu Han via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Detroit Tigers dropped the opening game of their final series of the season on the road against the Chicago White Sox on Friday night, 8-1, in a game that the home team showed why they are the American League Central Division champions. With just two games left on the schedule, time is running out for the Tigers to get in a last win or two before the postseason fog rolls in.

On Saturday, Detroit sends a once-heralded pitching prospect who has struggled a bit in his debut campaign to the mound while Chicago has a seasoned veteran on the bump looking to seal the deal on the series. Here is how things look ahead of the matchup.

Detroit Tigers (76-84) at. Chicago White Sox (92-68)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Matt Manning (4-7, 6.16 ERA) vs. RHP Lucas Giolito (11-9, 3.58 ERA)

Game 161 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Manning 80.1 13.6 8.7 4.84 0.6
Giolito 173.2 28.2 7.3 3.82 3.9

Matt Manning has not had the easiest rookie campaign, but despite some really ugly numbers, the former first-round pick has shown steady improvement as the innings stack up — not dissimilar to his prospect partner Casey Mize last season. Coming into his final start of 2021, his ERA and WHIP (1.57) are absolutely gut-wrenching, but his FIP does suggest he has been fairly unlucky as well.

The biggest problem truly has been that the 23-year old is by design a strikeout pitcher, but he has not been able to live up to his potential thus far as his velocity is still down from his pre-COVID levels. As such, he rates poorly among his major league peers as illustrated in Baseball Savant’s Percentile Rankings below. Note, if there are any young children or people with significant heart conditions in the room, please ask them to leave before scrolling down.

Baseball Savant

Manning has faced the White Sox thrice this summer, not exactly faring well in any of his outings. On July 4, he tossed 2 13 innings allowing two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out zero; Sept. 20, he made it through five innings allowing three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out a pair; Sept. 27, he threw 3 13 innings allowing six runs on four hits and five walks while striking out three. The good news is that he only allowed on dinger over the course of those three games.

Lucas Giolito is no stranger to the Tigers this season, having faced them four times this year — though not since July 4 (which incidentally was a game against Matt Manning). Believe it or not, Detroit has put the hurt on Chicago’s starter in three of the four games while the other was a simple quality start. The biggest beatdown came on the aforementioned date when the Motor City Kitties tagged him for six runs on 10 hits and a walk over five frames, striking out five times. The ChiSox’s right-hander probably is not looking forward to seeing the Tigers this evening.

Key Matchup: Matt Manning vs. himself

At this point, wins are a pretty meaningless stat unless you are chasing high draft picks — which the Tigers should be growing out of any time now. As noted above, this has not been the smoothest debut campaign for Manning but a strong finish would help give the young man some confidence heading into an offseason that has plenty of work awaiting him.