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Game 25 Preview: Tigers to tangle with Astros looking to bounce back

Detroit fell in the first game on Thursday night but have a chance to bounce back with Beau Brieske on the mound.

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

The Detroit Tigers will be looking for revenge on Friday night against the Houston Astros for a series-opening loss inflicted the previous evening, in which hometown ‘Stros outlasted the visiting Motor City Kitties for a 3-2 victory. After surrendering a home run on the very first pitch he threw, Tarik Skubal settled in for six innings of two-run ball on six hits and no walks while striking out nine. A two-run rally in the top of the ninth was ultimately negated by a walk-off finish against Gregory Soto. C’est la vie.

The Tigers get a chance to even things up in the second of the three-game set but it will not be an easy task for the good guys. They will send their rough-around-the-edges rookie to the mound while the opposition sends its own youngster to the bump to do battle. Take a look at how the two match up.

Detroit Tigers (8-16) at Houston Astros (15-11)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Minute Maid Park
SB Nation Site: The Crawfish Boxes
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Beau Brieske (0-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. RHP Luis Garcia (1-1, 4.15 ERA)

Game 25 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Brieske 10.0 15.0 10.0 6.99 -0.2
Garcia 21.2 22.4 5.9 5.17 0.0

Beau Brieske gets the third start of his nascent major league career after a pair in which he showed a great deal of promise but also left a lot of headroom for improvement. In the right-hander’s debut outing against the Colorado Rockies, he tossed five innings of three-run ball, allowing three hits and walking two along with two home runs while striking out three. The former 27th-round pick took a step forward against the Los Angeles Dodgers, in which he ultimately outdueled Clayton Kershaw for a team win thanks to nearly the same numbers, except only one run allowed and just one dinger surrendered. The young man is certainly trending in the right direction.

So far this season according to Baseball Savant, the 24-year-old leans heavily on his 94.3 mph four-seam fastball, throwing it 58.9% of the time — though the three misidentified sinkers mentioned in the previous preview were likely four-seamers, adding to this percentage — while offsetting that with his 81.5 mph changeup. Brieske’s 84.6 mph slider has emerged as his primary breaking pitch, which he has used exclusively against right-handed batters; his usage of the change is similar in reverse splits but does see occasional use against same-handed batters. However, both the slider and his 77.7 mph curveball have been getting hit hard so far, with xBA and xSLG values of .355 and .796 for his slider and a whopping .700 and 2.476, respectively, for the curve, albeit with just 10 of those pitches thrown for the latter.

That said, so far Detroit’s rookie hurler is in the upper half of the 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings in three categories, sitting in the 81st percentile in fastball spin, 66th in both fastball velocity and average exit velocity, and 59th in hard-hit percentage. It looks like the Tigers might really have something on their hands with this young man.

Luis Garcia, an international free agent signed back in July 2017 by the Astros, will start on the rubber for the fifth time this season. The 25-year-old started 2022 off strong with four innings of scoreless ball against the Arizona Diamondbacks but struggled in his next two outings, surrendering three and five runs over 5 23 and six innings, respectively, before bouncing back in his last start to spin six innings of two-run ball, getting stuck with the loss as his team could only muster a single run against the Toronto Blue Jays. Porcello-out the first game and the right-hander has been striking out around a batter per inning so far.

The third-year veteran gets by on a palette of five pitches headlined by his four-seam fastball (94.5 mph), cutter (85.6 mph), curveball (79.5 mph), slider (81.1 mph) and changeup (86.2 mph) that employs respectively, per Baseball Savant, with the four-seamer getting the bulk of the work at 56.6% followed by his cutter at 20%. Garcia’s other offerings appear to simply be there to keep the batter honest on his two fastball offerings. The results are not too shabby either, with his fastball spin rate placing in the 86th percentile, expected batting average in the 74th and walk percentage in the 72nd according to the 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings. However, his barrel percentage ranks in the 12th percentile and chase rate in the 13th, exposing an Achilles heel resulting from leaning so hard on the fastball offerings.

Key Matchup: Tigers’ bats vs Garcia

Houston’s Friday night starter has enough chinks in his armor that the Tigers should be able to get to him at some point. However, that might be wishful thinking as Detroit currently ranks 19th in batting average (.228), 20th in on-base percentage (.301) and 28th in slugging (.319), which adds up to a 27th-ranked OPS (.620) among major league teams. But the reality is that the team has got to push some runs across the board when the greenhorn is on the mound — so far Brieske has done a solid job holding up his end of the deal, as witnessed against the Dodgers. Gotta get players like Candy and Baddoo-y goin’ soon, or else it’s going to be a long evening in the Texan swamp.