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Detroit at Chicago Preview: Casey Mize takes the mound after an excellent month of May

The former top prospect is finally looking like the pitcher everyone expected him to be.

Detroit Tigers v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers notched a winning record in the month of May, which has been a difficult achievement during the rebuild. While this team is still far from good, the starting rotation does offer a chance to steal some games; when Casey Mize is on the mound, the odds are looking even better.

Mize had a difficult April, which was the very last thing the Tigers wanted to see from him after struggling in his debut season last year. However, he completely turned the page once the calendar flipped, pitching a lights-out 1.74 ERA over 31 innings in May, going at least six innings in four of his five starts and never giving up more than two runs.

While his strikeout numbers are modest, Mize has done well to keep the ball on the ground (51.2 percent) while limiting hard contact, especially over the last month (26.6 percent). He may be benefitting from some low home run numbers recently, but that is one advantage from avoiding hard contact. There are going to be more ups and downs this season, but the past month proved that this is where Mize belongs.

Detroit Tigers (23-32) at Chicago White Sox (33-22)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Casey Mize (3-3, 3.28 ERA) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (6-1, 1.20 ERA)

Game 100 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Alexander 33.1 12.9 5.7 4.32 0.2
Kikuchi 65.0 25.1 13.9 5.81 -0.5

Initially, the Tigers were set to face Dallas Keuchel, but the White Sox have switched things up, and their new opponent on Thursday night is much tougher. Lance Lynn’s late career breakout has been something to behold, and the Tigers will very much have their hands full tonight.

For the first seven years of his MLB career, Lynn was your prototypical, durable mid-rotation starter. However, in 2019, when he was already 32 years old, he went through a renaissance with the Texas Rangers. He added a cut fastball that became a significant weapon for him, and has all but eliminated the curveball from his repertoire. As a result, it’s all hard stuff from Lynn now. He’s hitting the highest fastball velocity of his career, and carving through lineups with nothing but fourseam fastballs, cutters, and sinkers.

The cutter, sometimes classified as a slider, is a big out pitch for him, but Lynn will get plenty of whiffs off the heater as well. He doesn’t issue many walks, and he’s extremely tough to barrel up.

Key matchup: Tigers vs. plate discipline

While pitching has driven the recent success, the Detroit offense has actually been league average (99 wRC+) over the past two weeks. The power remains down, but there has been a drastic improvement in strikeout rate (17th) and also walk rate (sixth) during this span. The Tigers will need to string together tough at-bats and put a lot of balls in play to score much against Lynn. You just can’t expect to take him deep very often. Mize should be able to hang in there, and if the Tigers can stay patient at the plate, there could be opportunities on Thursday.