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Game 20 Preview: Tigers look to bounce back against Dodgers on Saturday

Sliding down the standings on a six-game skid Detroit looks to its rookie pitcher to snap the schneid.

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Colorado Rockies v Detroit Tigers - Game Two Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The dark cloud over the Detroit Tigers continued to linger on Friday night when they dropped their series-opener on the road against the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-1, in a matchup of Tylers that the Tigers fell short in. Two early home runs by L.A. doomed Detroit as the bats remained cold, producing a lonely third-inning score but failing to do any further damage in its fourth-straight road loss and sixth-straight overall. That 13-0 drubbing of the Colorado Rockies, in which Miguel Cabrera reached his historical hit milestone, seems so far away now.

Saturday presents a new opportunity for the Motor City Kitties to get things going, but given the opponent, it once again will not be easy. The good guys are counting on their newly-promoted rookie fresh off his major league debut last time out to right the ship while the home team has a future Hall of Famer taking the mound. In a stark contrast between greenhorn and veteran, two teams with perfectly opposite records will do battle between the hills of Chavez Ravine. Here is a look at how the two match up.

Detroit Tigers (6-13) at Los Angeles Dodgers (13-6)

Time/Place: 10:10 p.m. Dodger Stadium
SB Nation Site: True Blue L.A.
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Beau Brieske (0-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (3-0, 2.65 ERA)

Game 20 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Brieske 5.0 15.0 10.0 8.30 -0.2
Kershaw 17.0 37.7 0.0 2.10 0.6

Beau Brieske got his first major league start in the second game of the doubleheader against the Rockies last Saturday which resulted in the loss that began the current skid. The 27th-round pick out of Colorado State-Pueblo in the 2019 MLB draft showed exactly why he flew up the minor league ranks despite a less-than-optimal outcome to the game. He gave up three earned runs on three hits, two walks and a pair of dingers while striking out three using 73 pitches over five innings, resulting in a 3-2 loss that day for Detroit, but looked comfortable out on the bump and flashed some brilliance that should get Tigers fans excited.

In his debut appearance, the 24-year-old hurler featured five different pitches according to Baseball Savant, headlined by a four-seam fastball (94.6 mph), followed up with his punishing changeup (82.0 mph), along with a pair of breaking pitches in a slider (85.4 mph) and curveball (77.6 mph). Statcast also picked up three pitches that it believes were sinkers (94.4 mph) but the jury is still out on those given the spin rate reported. The fastball got the most work, getting used 58.9% of the time with almost equal splits while the changeup saw usage 19.2% of the time and was predictably used more against opposite-handed opponents, while the slider saw similar splits in sparse usage; the curve was also used sparingly but equally between left- and right-handers.

Clayton Kershaw needs little introduction to anyone who has watched the sport over the past decade-and-a-half. The 15-year veteran, who has spent his entire career in Dodger blue after they made him the No. 7 overall pick in the 2006 MLB draft, is long past his prime when he won a pair of Cy Young awards as well as an MVP trophy back in the early part of the 2010s, but still is an effective pitcher who continues to rack up the stats. The left-hander has gotten off to a stellar start to this season, putting up a microscopic 0.59 WHIP in large part to the fact that he has yet to allow a walk while striking out 12.2 hitters per nine over 17 innings pitched. Sure, early-season small sample sizes are definitely in play, but the 34-year-old clearly still has plenty left in the tank.

The Dodgers’ ace has seen a bit of change in his approach over the years, though his arsenal has remained mostly consistent. These days, his slider (85.6 mph) is the dominant pitch at 44.2% usage followed by his four-seam fastball (90.5 mph) at 39.3%, a curveball (72.8 mph) that he flashes 14.5% of the time, as well as a very rarely-used changeup (83.1 mph), according to Baseball Savant. Until 2017 Kershaw was a fastball-dominant pitcher, but over the past five seasons, his slider has become much more prominent and saw peak usage in 2021. Take a look below at how he matches up with his peers so far in this campaign.

Baseball Savant

Yeah, I would say that Kershaw is still pretty good.

Key Matchup: Youth vs. Elder

I would not go so far as calling this matchup a changing of the guard, or the passing of the baton, or any other silly cliché, because Kershaw is a once-in-a-generation talent that Brieske probably will not match over the course of his career. However, the Tigers’ rookie could be one of the future faces of the franchise if he can put it all together, which for now means refining his breaking pitches to match up with his plus fastball and change. Going up against a legend might be an immense task for the youngling, but a lot can be learned facing the decorated veteran, and if he can keep the Tigers in the game long enough to pull out a win, that would be a huge feather in his cap.