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Tigers vs. White Sox Preview: Lance Lynn returns from the injured list to duel Rony Garcia

Rony Garcia will have a tough test again in this one.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Every time the Tigers take a step in the right direction recently, one of the top teams in the game appears to smack them back down. First, it was the New York Yankees erasing the memory of a good series against the Twins. Over the weekend, the Toronto Blue Jays wiped the Tigers out in two of three games. Now, they’ll welcome in a tough White Sox team that has a lot of problems of its own, starting with manager Tony La Russa.

The White Sox have won just one of their last six series, though they did split a two-game set with the Chicago Cubs late in May. They hold a 27-31 record and are only 3 12 games ahead of the Tigers in the wild card chase, and three games behind the Cleveland Guardians, who hold second place in the division.

Some of their top players have been injured or ineffective. Yoan Moncada has only played 25 games and holds a 5 wRC+ mark to date. It’s been a similar story for power-hitting outfielder Eloy Jimenez. The rotation has been in rough shape as well. On the other hand, Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu are still producing, while Andrew Vaughn has settled in as a productive member of the lineup.

The White Sox are also getting some help back from the injured list in the form of starting pitcher Lance Lynn, who returns to the mound against the Tigers tonight after missing the first third of the season for right knee surgery. The big right-hander has been one of the top starters in the game in recent years, so the Tigers would be wise to beat him before he hits a groove again.

Detroit Tigers (24-35) vs. Chicago White Sox (27-31)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m. EDT, Comerica Park, Detroit, MI
SB Nation Site: South Side Sox
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Rony Garcia (0-1, 4.50 ERA) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Game 60 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Garcia 28.0 3.85 30.0 6.4 1.61 0.3
Lynn (2021) 157.0 3.32 27.5 7.0 1.03 4.2

Lance Lynn’s final rehab start at Triple-A did not go well, and he hasn’t appeared in a game this season, but if the Tigers get 2021 Lance Lynn, well it’s gonna be a bad time. At his best Lynn pounds the zone with three types of fastballs (four-seam, sinker, cut fastball) and a hard slider, getting tons of whiffs and weak contact. He’ll occasionally spin a curveball in when you least expect it, but that’s rare. Despite just about everything sitting in a velocity band between 89-96 mph, he’s hard to barrel up. The three fastballs all move pretty differently at similar velocities and are tough for hitters to distinguish between out of Lynn’s hand.

Considering that Lynn tore up his rear knee and had surgery less than three months ago, and that he hasn’t looked terribly good in his rehab outings, the Tigers may have a chance to pounce tonight. Hard to believe his command is going to be sharp. However, that will require the Tigers to actually hit baseballs very hard, including over the fence. Now nine weeks into the season, we haven’t seen much of that, and again the Tigers are relying on a young starting pitcher a little out of his depth to handle their AL Central rivals.

Rony Garcia has been a very pleasant surprise so far this year. Stashed on the roster as a Rule 5 pick in 2020, Garcia was injured and ineffective in 2021, but he’s emerged this year with better action on his tailing four-seam fastball, and a sharper curveball that is generating a goodly amount of whiffs. The big right-hander will mix in a solid changeup against lefties, but he’s typically relying on the fastball-curve combination most of the time.

The stuff is willing, but Garcia’s command is still wanting. The result has been too many grooved pitches and hitter’s counts, leading to a quite high home run rate so far. The White Sox can certainly take advantage of that tendency, but Comerica Park is a good place for Garcia to pitch, and if he can attack the zone and get ahead of most hitters, he should have a solid night.