Major League Baseball is back!
Welcome to the first game of the 2022 season as the Detroit Tigers open up their campaign at home against their intradivision rivals, the Chicago White Sox. It was a long winding road to get to this point after a tumultuous offseason lockout that nearly saw the schedule go up in smoke. Fortunately, both parties were able to come to an agreement and ultimately give the fans what they have been pining for since last fall.
The Motor City Kitties open up with their newly-anointed ace pitcher while the ChiSox throw their best out to kick off the campaign. Here is a look at what is in store for Friday afternoon’s tangle in Comerica Park.
Detroit Tigers (0-0) vs. Chicago White Sox (0-0)
Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Game 1 Pitching Matchup (2021 Stats)
Eduardo Rodríguez was signed by the Tigers as a free agent last November after spending his first six major league seasons with the Boston Red Sox — not including a lost year during COVID. The veteran southpaw put up solid numbers throughout his career and has proven that he can effectively eat innings, as exemplified by his 2019 season in which he started an MLB-best 34 games and hurled 203 1⁄3 innings en route to a sixth-place finish in the Cy Young vote. His 2021 performance was a bit of a step back, posting career-highs in ERA (4.74) and WHIP (1.39) but he also managed to tally a career-low FIP (3.32).
The 29-year-old from Venezuela gets by on a five-pitch arsenal headlined by a 4-seam fastball (92.6 mph), followed by a changeup (85.4 mph), cutter (88.3 mph), sinker (92.5 mph) and slider (82.1 mph), respectively, according to Baseball Savant. He excels among his peers in average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage, landing in the 90th and 87th percentile in those categories, respectively. Here is a look at the rest of his MLB percentile rankings.
On the mound opposite Rodríguez is Lucas Giolito, who is no stranger to Detroit. The 27-year-old from California has been a beast for the White Sox during his five seasons in the Windy City, including his past three campaigns in which he finished 6th, 7th and 11th, respectively, for the Cy Young award. The veteran right-hander faced the Tigers five times last season, earning losses in three of those games while not figuring in the decision in the other two. However, he did manage to mow down more than one Tigers batter per inning, striking out 33 in 29 2⁄3 innings.
Giolito’s arsenal consists of a traditional mix of a 4-seam fastball (93.8 mph), changeup (81.5 mph), slider (85.6 mph) and curveball (80.6 mph), according to Baseball Savant. He is able to pound the zone with his first two offerings while peppering the batter with the latter to keep them off-balance, which gives him high marks in the MLB percentile rankings, peaking in the 87th percentile for whiff percentage.
Key Matchup: Pitching
This one has the makings of an exciting pitcher’s duel if both starters can shake off the rust and bring their A-games. Chicago holds the edge in the matchup but this Detroit lineup is a bit more formidable than before, so hopefully the Tigers batters can flummox Giolito and give Rodríguez a bit of breathing room to work with. But regardless of the outcome, everyone can agree that it is great to have Major League Baseball back.