The hope is that Wednesday’s beatdown by the White Sox — and subsequent players-only meeting — will be the spark to turn this team around, but unfortunately, that embarrassment was nothing out of the ordinary. While losses that large are not everyday occurrences, it is the third time in two weeks that the Detroit Tigers have lost by at least nine runs, and defeats in general have become the norm.
Morale is understandably low, but perhaps a four-game set against the Texas Rangers will bring a change in pace. Youth is often the source of revitalization and Detroit could benefit from some of that in the series opener. On the mound for the home team will be Beau Brieske, who likely did not enter the year expecting to make double-digit starts, yet Thursday will be outing No. 10 for the 24-year-old.
Brieske has been quite serviceable, nearly always going over five innings, which has been his biggest asset. The young righty has been solid as of late, owning a 3.38 ERA over his last four outings, including 5 2⁄3 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays last weekend. He might not be a dominant strikeout machine, but Brieske has been a nice option to plug some holes in an ever-injured rotation.
Texas Rangers (29-33) at Detroit Tigers (24-38)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Lone Star Ball
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Martín Pérez (4-2, 2.18 ERA) vs. RHP Beau Brieske (1-5, 4.34 ERA)
Game 70 Pitching Matchup
A 2.18 ERA should always be met with skepticism, especially coming from a 31-year-old with a career 4.55 ERA. Former Ranger Martín Pérez has returned to Texas after a few years in both Minnesota and Boston, where those three seasons yielded just 2.9 total fWAR. Back with his original franchise, Pérez has been one of the best pitchers in the league (already with 2.0 fWAR), but odds are this is a mirage.
For starters, Pérez is getting very few whiffs and does not have the exit velocity numbers to match his impressive stat line. While his 2.72 FIP is kept low by his limited walks, he is also benefitting from a 3.0 percent HR/FB rate, which does not seem sustainable at all. His command has improved some to be sure, but the most likely outcome is that his final numbers will look much closer to the pitcher he has always been.
One needs to look no farther than his last outing to see some cracks in the foundation. The White Sox teed off for six runs and just four strikeouts, perhaps suggesting that the long-expected regression is on its way. Of course, the Tigers just saw firsthand how their offense is not quite at the level of Chicago’s, so Pérez is probably safe for this one. After that, though, watch out for the dropoff.
Key matchup: Tigers bullpen vs. rest
Wednesday’s performance was terrible by the offense but was also the fourth-straight short start by the Detroit rotation. The three previous games featured five innings of relief work each, and Alex Faedo’s three-inning start led to another long bullpen day. Thankfully three of those innings were taken by position players, but this is not a sustainable way to work a pitching staff. Hopefully, Brieske can turn in another 5+ inning performance.