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Game 32 Preview: Tigers turn to Beau Brieske to close out 5-game series against A’s

Can Beau Brieske get his first major league win? Not unless Detroit’s offense shows up.

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

Things are not going well in Detroit.

The month of May has been an absolute slog for the Tigers as the team only seems capable of winning in the front half of doubleheaders. Sporting a 2-9 record so far throughout the month, Detroit closes out a bizarre five-game series with the Oakland Athletics on Thursday that helps make up some of the games missed by the lockout. The A’s have already claimed three of four games so far in the series, so the Tigers have no chance of earning a series victory.

Still, a win would feel pretty nice after the 9-0 shellacking suffered on Wednesday night. Beau Brieske will get his fourth major league start and is hoping that this is the one that delivers his first big league win. The A’s will send out James Kaprielian, who was sent over in 2017 by the Yankees as part of the Sonny Gray deal. He started the season on the injured list after dealing with shoulder issues on his throwing side. Here is a look at how the starters match up.

Detroit Tigers (9-22) vs. Oakland Athletics (13-19)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: Athletics Nation
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Beau Brieske (0-2, 4.20 ERA) vs. RHP James Kaprielian (0-2, 5.87 ERA)

Game 32 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Brieske 15.0 14.3 11.1 7.66 -0.3
Kaprielian 7.2 25.7 17.1 5.87 0.0

Last time out, Brieske faired well against the Houston Astros. He went five innings and gave up three earned runs on a pair of homers while struggling with his command once again. Detroit’s offense left him hanging though and he took the loss. That’s three starts in a row that the 24-year-old rookie has shown a hint of something to be excited about, but he has yet to put it all together in the majors.

The key will be limiting home runs and hard-hit balls. Brieske doesn’t feature great swing and miss stuff. The slider is a work in progress and only gets thrown to righties. He hasn’t found the sweet spot to bring the whiff rate up for that pitch, but the real damage is done against him when he leaves a fastball high and in the zone, according to Baseball Savant.

He seems to be leaning on the fastball less and less as time goes on, coming down from a 58.9% usage rate last week to 52.8% heading into Thursday’s contest. Instead, the changeup is being thrown 25.2% of the time while the slider (13.6%) is used as a punchout pitch.

Kaprielian has only started two games since returning from the IL. He got touched up in his first outing back against the Cleveland Guardians, but he was one out shy from recording a quality start against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday. Kaprielian went 5 23 innings allowing just one run while striking out seven. That certainly seems like what you’d expect from a former first-round pick that’s already recovered from Tommy John surgery, and it’s not like the Tigers are striking fear in the hearts of their opponents right now. In fact, Detroit is the ideal opponent for a man in Kaprielian’s situation. Will he take advantage of it? Probably. Everyone else seems to.

His 2022 arsenal features the same five pitches as he used in 2021, but there are a few noticeable differences in the early return from this season. The fastball is still sitting at 93 mph but the usage is down considerably from 52.8% of pitches being four-seamers to just 40.4% this season. The slider has seen a 1.6 mph jump in velocity and is now being used 30.1% of the time compared to just 17.4% a year ago.

Kaprielian’s curve has also picked up about 1.5 mph and is being used at the same rate as the changeup was last year. If all those numbers are too much for you, the short and long of it is that he’s using more breaking balls early on this season instead of relying on the fastball so much.

Key Matchup: The Tigers offense vs. Brieske

It’s no secret that the Tigers often struggle to score runs. In the four losses so far this week, Detroit has totaled just one run. But, there’s something about a Beau Brieske start that makes this team look hopeless to score.

His debut came in the back half of a double-header where the Tigers won game one by a score of 13-0 and the Tigers promptly put up nothing on the board for him. Then, he matched Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles only to be handed a no-decision despite a rare Tigers win. Finally, he got one measly run against the Astros last week and took another loss.

If the Tigers can just do Brieske a solid and give the kid a chance to get that first win off his back, that’d be... well, that would be miraculous, folks.