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Detroit at Chicago Preview: Skubal hopes to repeat previous performance against White Sox

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The Tigers have dropped the first two games of the series but look to snag a Saturday win.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Friday night was a rough one for Detroit Tigers fans as their team played a hard-fought match with the Chicago White Sox but came out on the losing end, 9-8. The defeat was not the worst part, however. Also lost was Spencer Turnbull, who left the game in the fourth inning with forearm tightness. The first report was that the initial diagnosis was positive; however, the next morning came the bad news.

On Saturday, the Tigers have a chance to salvage the four-game series with the American League Central Division-leading White Sox with a win, setting up the chance for a split on Sunday after dropping the first two games. It will not be easy, however, as Chicago sends some serious arms to the mound these next couple of days to try and tame the Tigers. Here is a look at the matchup on the hill.

Detroit Tigers (23-34) at Chicago White Sox (35-22)

Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tarik Skubal (2-7, 4.59 ERA) vs. RHP Lucas Giolito (5-4, 3.73 ERA)

Game 58 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Skubal 49.0 26.1 10.6 5.79 -0.2
Giolito 62.2 30.2 9.3 3.87 1.1

Last time I previewed Tarik Skubal, he went out and had his best outing of 2021 so far, tossing six scoreless innings while allowing three hits, three walks and striking out eight for the win against the New York Yankees in Detroit. After a bit of a rough start to the season, the young hurler appears to be finding his footing though Saturday’s game in Chicago will surely test whether he has taken steps forward or if his recent success was just a blip on the radar.

The lefty has been heavily reliant on his four-seamer, throwing it more than half of the time, plus a slider he uses nearly a quarter of the time. However, in his last start he traded a chunk of his fastball usage for a significantly increased use of his sinker, which bore Skubal his first official quality start of the season. Here is a look at his pitch distribution this year, per Baseball Savant.

Baseball Savant

News of his split-finger pitch’s demise was not exaggerated as you can see on the chart, as well as the resurrection of the sinker. In his 2021 debut back on April 4 against the Cleveland Indians, he threw his four-seamer a season-high 59.8 percent of the time versus his nadir against the Yankees when he used it just 36.8 percent. Then, considering that his sinker was practically sitting in a coffin when he pulled it out, it improved from a moribund state to an 18.9 percent usage in his last game. Seems like Wu Tang Financial was correct: you better diversify your bondsfastballs.

Enough about Skubal, the White Sox send a familiar face to battle against the Tigers hitters in Lucas Giolito. The veteran southpaw is having yet another fine year for himself in the Windy City, putting up solid traditional and peripheral numbers despite an oddly mediocre win-loss record. He left most of his misfortunes back in the month of April, and since then, has been on a bit of a tour de force with just one blemish against the Kansas City Royals in mid-May. The 26-year-old’s previous game was probably his best of the year, in which he struck out 12 Baltimore Orioles batters in seven innings while allowing just one run — a solo home run — along with three hits and three walks.

If you are not familiar with Giolito, he has a traditional four-pitch arsenal headlined by his four-seamer (93.7 mph) which he uses just over 45 percent of the time along with a changeup (81.6 mph) that serves as his preferred secondary offering at 37.5 percent usage, and his two breaking balls — a slider (86 mph) that ostensibly serves as the breaking ball of choice along with a rare curveball (81.1 mph). While it is nothing flashy, it gets the job done in comparison to his peers, as you can see below.

Baseball Savant

Key Matchup: Skubal vs. his tweaked approach

As noted above, a rebirth of Skubal’s sinker brought great success in his last outing. Will he stick with what worked before? Seems very likely, but hopefully he does not get overexposed either. Also note that he has been favoring the curve more in recent games and has slightly increased use of the changeup. Is this a sign of progress? We will find out soon enough.