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Game 40 Preview: Tigers look to bounce back vs. Guardians

Cleveland took the opening game of the series on Friday night. Can Detroit even it up?

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Detroit Tigers v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers are back on the schneid again after dropping the final two games against the Tampa Bay Rays during the week, then falling in the opening game of a weekend road series Friday night against the newly-minted Cleveland Guardians, 6-1. Tarik Skubal took a line drive to his shin, knocking him out of the game and sending yet another Tiger to the casualty ward, further decimating an already thin pitching staff that has been ravaged by the injury bug.

The pendulum has swung back from a four-game winning streak that made it until Monday with the Motor City Kitties now having dropped three in a row heading into Saturday evening’s affair. Detroit will send another one of its former first-round draft picks to the mound looking to score his first major league win against a decorated veteran for Cleveland. Here is a look at how the matchup shakes out as the Tigers try to get back on the winning side.

UPDATE: The game was rained out on Saturday and moved to Thursday, July 14 at 7:10 p.m. ET. but Sunday’s affair will feature the same pitching matchup. We have updated the details below.

Detroit Tigers (13-26) vs. Cleveland Guardians (17-19)

Time/Place: 1:40 p.m., Progressive Field
SB Nation site: Covering the Corner
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Alex Faedo (0-1, 2.87 ERA) vs. RHP Shane Bieber (1-2, 3.72 ERA)

Game 40 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Faedo 15.2 18.8 6.3 3.98 0.2
Bieber 38.2 22.1 7.4 3.58 0.5

Alex Faedo has been a pleasant surprise for the Tigers, coming off of Tommy John surgery that shelved him following a lost season to COVID, keeping him out of competition for two years. The No. 18 pick in the 2017 MLB draft out of Florida had initially struggled in the lower minors, dealing with conditioning issues as well as having difficulty refining his mechanics before finding himself in Erie, where he threw a combined no-hitter with Drew Carlton back in 2019. It appears that post-surgery Faedo has picked up where he left off.

The 26-year-old has started three games so far in 2022 and has managed to throw at least five innings every time out. Faedo’s five frames against the Pittsburgh Pirates in his major league debut yielded two runs on eight hits (one home run) and a walk while striking out one. His second turn on the mound was even better, spinning five innings of two-run ball on four hits and two walks while striking out seven Oakland Athletics hitters; however, he was saddled with the loss thanks to the Tigers’ anemic offense. Finally, against the Rays on Monday in what was essentially a homecoming game for him, the right-hander threw 5 23 innings of one-run ball on four hits (one home run) and a walk while striking out four. He failed to earn the win when Michael Fulmer squandered the hold opportunity but certainly deserved one for his effort.

A quick look at Faedo’s arsenal reveals a three-pitch assortment led by a four-seam fastball (92.6 mph) that he uses just a hair under half of the time, along with a slider (85.7 mph) and changeup (86.2 mph) that he employs 30% and 20% of the time, respectively, according to Baseball Savant. There is nothing particularly remarkable about his pitches, though in a small sample size, he sits in the 68th percentile for walk percentage, 63rd for barrel percentage and 54th in whiff percentage on the 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings.

Shane Bieber toes the rubber opposite of Faedo on Saturday, now in his fifth season at the major league level — all in Cleveland — after being selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of California at Santa Barbara by the same franchise. The right-hander moved quickly up the minor leagues and saw his first full year in the big leagues just two years later when he tossed 114 23 innings to the tune of a 4.55 ERA, 3.23 FIP and 1.33 WHIP. He followed that up with a 214 13 inning campaign in 2019 that earned him an All-Star appearance while finishing fourth in the Cy Young vote.

In 2020, Bieber won the Cy Young award and finished fourth in the MVP vote for the COVID-shortened campaign, finishing the season with a microscopic stat line of 1.63 ERA, 2.07 FIP and 0.87 FIP along with 122 strikeouts in 77 13 innings pitched. However, the 26-year-old has failed to reach the century mark in innings pitched since 2019, though he appears to be on the path in 2022.

Cleveland’s ace gets by on a five-pitch arsenal that is headlined by his slider (85.0 mph), four-seam fastball (90.7 mph), curveball (82.0 mph), changeup (86.1 mph) and cutter (88.7 mph), according to Baseball Savant. His slider and fastball are essentially paired, throwing them at 41.5% and 37.9% clips, respectively, while the curve sees 17.8% usage. The latter two offerings are hardly ever used, coming in at under 2%. Interestingly, the slider usage has been trending upwards the past few years while his curve has trended downwards.

Key Matchup: Tigers vs. injuries

For the love of God, please let there be a clean game with no injuries. That is all I am asking for today.