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Game 21 Preview: Can the Tigers take the series from the Dodgers?

Detroit pulled off an amazing upset on Saturday night to snap the losing streak and now look to go in for the kill.

Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers finally snapped their six-game losing streak against all odds on Saturday night with a 5-1 win over Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Beau Brieske looked brilliant on the bump for the kitties, allowing a lead-off solo home run to Mookie Betts before shutting down the L.A. boys for five innings, handing a tied game to the bullpen who hung on for the victory. The bats also came back alive in this one as the visitors amassed 10 hits including three doubles, with most of the damage coming against the relief corps. It was a late night for most fans, but also a great one too.

On Sunday afternoon, the Tigers will look to go for the kill and emerge from their west coast swing with a series win, but again, we are talking about one of the best teams in the majors in their own home confines. Detroit has its de facto ace heading to the bump to try and repeat Brieske’s performance while Los Angeles sends an All-Star of its own out to defend its turf. Let us take a look at how those two match up.

Detroit Tigers (7-13) at Los Angeles Dodgers (13-7)

Time/Place: 4:10 p.m. Dodger Stadium
SB Nation Site: True Blue L.A.
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Eduardo Rodríguez (0-1, 5.03 ERA) vs. RHP Walker Buehler (2-1, 2.55 ERA)

Game 21 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Rodríguez 19.2 21.4 9.5 4.47 0.2
Buehler 24.2 21.2 6.1 3.30 0.4

Eduardo Rodríguez was an offseason acquisition by the Tigers ahead of the lockout, signing as a free agent back in November after spending his first six seasons with the Boston Red Sox. The 29-year-old has not been too impressive in Detroit so far, putting up extremely mediocre numbers while surrendering no fewer than three runs in all four of his starts in 2022. His team has lost in three of his appearances, with the lone exception being his opening day effort in which the Tigers prevailed over the Chicago White Sox despite his three runs allowed on four hits and two walks in just four frames of work.

The veteran from Venezuela did not fare much better in his next one, getting seven runs (only two earned) dropped on him by his former team on April 13 to take his lone loss of the season, but began showing improvement on April 20 against the New York Yankees when he spun six innings of three-run ball in a 5-3 loss. He followed that up with an almost identical effort against the Minnesota Twins on April 26 while striking out a season-high six batters. The left-hander has allowed one home run in each of his last three games

Walker Buehler is yet another stud in the Dodgers’ stable of pitchers who has a pair of All-Star appearances under his belt as well as two top-10 Cy Young award finishes over the course of his now six-year career. The 27-year-old was originally plucked out of Vanderbilt by L.A. in the first round of the 2015 MLB draft and was quickly groomed for the big leagues, getting his first cups of coffee in 2017. He finished third in the Rookie of the Year vote in 2018 and made his first All-Star appearance in 2019.

So far in 2022, the right-hander has cruised along, putting up stellar numbers including a tidy 1.05 WHIP, with his only real blemish coming in a loss against the Atlanta Braves two starts ago in which he surrendered three earned runs over five frames in a 3-1 defeat. Buehler is coming off an absolute gem in his last outing, however, spinning a complete-game shutout allowing just three hits and no walks while striking out 10.

The Dodgers’ starter earns his keep with a lush six-pitch arsenal consisting of a four-seam fastball (94.8 mph), cutter (91.2 mph), curveball (79.3 mph), slider (83.1 mph), changeup (90.4 mph) and sinker (94.5 mph), according to Baseball Savant. He employs the four-seamer 34.7% of the time along with his cutter 22% of the time while tossing his breaking pitches at a near-even clip (13.8% vs 13.5%, respectively). The change and sinker see minimal usage at 8.8% and 7.2%, respectively, this season.

The results have been pretty good for Buehler in comparison to his peers in 2022, placing in the 96th percentile in chase rate, 73rd in curve spin, 71st in walk percentage and 70th in fastball spin. All three of his fastball options are also above average in terms of velocity, adding up to a pitcher who looks to be a formidable foe for the Tigers on Sunday.

Key Matchup: Detroit vs. West Coast

It seems like the Tigers rarely, if ever, pull off a series win on a west coast road trip but they have a chance to do it today against one of the best teams in baseball. After a hard-earned win on Saturday night against an all-time great anything seems possible, and given the quirks of the game we all have come to know and love, they just might pull it off with a lot of effort and maybe even more luck.