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Game 64 Preview: Skubal looks to solve the mystery of the Texas Rangers

The Tigers dropped the opener of the four-game weekend series but have their ace on the mound for Game 2.

Toronto Blue Jays v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Times are tough for the Detroit Tigers, especially now that their losing streak was extended to five-straight games after a heartbreaking 3-1 loss to the Texas Rangers at home on Thursday night. Rookie Beau Briekse easily put up his best performance so far in his nascent major league career but the bullpen could not hold on to a slim 1-0 lead, saddling Gregory Soto with a blown save. The good guys did manage eight hits but otherwise had a shellfish boil to the tune of 13 LOBsters.

The good news is that the pitcher on the bump sporting the Olde English D is among the best in the big leagues this season, giving the Tigers a fighting chance to snap the schneid. Meanwhile, the Rangers have a grizzled veteran in his first season on the junior circuit toeing the rubber for the visitors. Take a look below at how the two match up.

Texas Rangers (30-33) at Detroit Tigers (24-39)

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 Tarik Skubal (5-3, 2.71 ERA) vs. RHP Jon Gray (1-3, 4.85 ERA)

Game 64 Pitching Matchup

Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Player IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Skubal 69.2 27.6 4.4 2.29 2.4
Gray 52.0 26.0 10.0 3.64 0.9

Tarik Skubal’s 2022 campaign has been a fun ride, giving the team one of its few bright spots in a season otherwise marred by offensive futility so far. However, his most recent outing on June 12 against the Toronto Blue Jays was his worst performance since the opening game of the season, throwing just four frames of four-run ball on seven hits (one home run) and two walks while striking out five to earn his third loss of the season. It also chipped 0.3 fWAR off of his total, dropping him into a second-place tie with Zach Wheeler and Sandy Alcántara for the league lead.

Jon Gray is in his first year with the Rangers and first anywhere other than with the team that drafted him with the third-overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft, the Colorado Rockies. The 30-year-old has had a decent career over the past seven-plus seasons, amassing 15.7 fWAR over that time, though it has been quite a while since his highwater mark in 2016 when he put up a career-high 3.6 fWAR in 168 innings. So far, his move to the American League has not changed much in the way of his results.

The right-hander gets by with a four-pitch arsenal headlined by a four-seam fastball (95.5 mph), slider (85.2 mph), changeup (88.7 mph) and curveball (78.4 mph), while he employs respectively, per Baseball Savant. The four-seamer sees usage just a hair over half of the time while he leans heavily on the slider for his secondary offering at 36.4%; the changeup comes in at 10.9% and the curve is essentially a show-me pitch at 4.1%. Here is how it adds up in comparison to his peers.

Baseball Savant

Key Matchup: Skubal’s bounce-back

While earning the win today is paramount to all other goals, a strong bounce-back effort from Detroit’s young ace is truly what the doctor orders. The Rangers are in the bottom third of the league in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS while just below the middle of the pack when it comes to slugging. Getting Skubal back on track will likely earn the Motor City Kitties a win on Friday, but more importantly, it would serve as a springboard for the 25-year-old to continue his meteoric ascent.