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Game 58 Preview: Can the Tigers strike back against the Blue Jays?

Toronto brought the pain to Detroit on Friday night. Can Detroit bounce back and even the series?

Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers returned to earth on Friday night, dropping the opener of a three-game homestand against the Toronto Blue Jays in a rain-soaked 10-1 loss. After taking a pair of midweek matchups from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Motor City Kitties were looking to go streaking again, but instead, starter Elvin Rodriguez struggled and the bats went damp resulting in an embarrassing blowout loss.

They get a chance to even things up on Saturday as long as the weather cooperates — and it is expected to do so — but the task will be a tough one. The Tigers send their not-quite-ready-for-prime-time rookie to the bump to face off with one of the best in the business in 2022. Take a look below at the David and Goliath matchup set for this afternoon.

Detroit Tigers (23-34) at Toronto Blue Jays (34-23)

Time/Place: 4:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Blue Bird Banter
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Beau Brieske (0-5, 4.93 ERA) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (5-4, 2.78 ERA)

Game 58 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Brieske 42.0 16.3 8.4 6.54 -0.6
Gausman 64.2 27.5 2.6 1.60 2.9

Beau Brieske is having one of those debut seasons that can be tough to watch at times, but at others, you can begin to see the shine beneath the varnish. The former 27th-round pick in the MLB draft’s stats appear to require an NSFW tag at first glance — especially his abysmal fWAR — but he has done a solid job grinding through his games and giving the Tigers much-needed innings from their starter.

Previously, we had held up his appearance against the Los Angeles Dodgers opposite Clayton Kershaw as his season high-water mark, and while it probably retains that distinction, the 24-year-old’s most recent outing against the New York Yankees was not too shabby either. The right-hander threw six innings of two-run ball — both off solo home runs — on three hits and a walk while striking out seven en route to a 3-0 loss. The good news is that Brieske appears to rise to the occasion when it comes to top-tier opposition and that is exactly what he faces on Saturday.

Kevin Gausman currently leads the majors in fWAR ahead of Detroit’s own Tarik Skubal, who sits in second with his total. The 10-year veteran signed with Toronto in December 2021 making it his fifth stop over his major league career. After struggling to find his footing with the Baltimore Orioles over his first five-plus seasons a shift to the National League appeared to help a bit, with the 31-year-old eventually settling in with the San Francisco Giants over the past couple of seasons, including last year in which he earned an All-Star appearance while also earning Cy Young and MVP votes.

The right-hander gets by on a four-pitch arsenal consisting of a four-seam fastball (94.5 mph), splitter (84.8 mph), slider (83.5 mph) and changeup (84.4 mph), which he employs respectively, according to Baseball Savant. The four-seam sees usage just a hair over half the time while the splitter is his primary offspeed offering at 35.1% and the slider at 11.7% usage; the change hardly sees daylight at a 2.6% clip. How does he stack up against his peers this year? Take a look below.

Baseball Savant

Key Matchup: Tigers’ bats vs. Gausman

I have a gut feeling Brieske will be able to keep the Jays’ bats at bay, given his prior results against juggernauts like the Dodgers and Yankees. If the Tigers rookie can do that, the bats must undertake the monumental task of breaking through against Gausman. It seems highly unlikely, but baseball can be an unpredictable game and maybe — just maybe — the stars will align on Saturday evening.