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Game 70 Preview: Heading toward some better vibes out west

The Tigers make the infrequent trip out to Arizona.

MLB: JUN 13 White Sox at Tigers Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Basically, every Detroit Tigers fan is frustrated right now and every national analyst is full of criticism of the team. There is not a ton of arguments to make to the contrary, as the 2022 squad has taken a step back when many expected it to continue showing some progress as it did in the second half of 2021. It is not even the All-Star break, yet times are tough.

What fun is it to beat this narrative to death, though? There are still over 90 games left in the season, so might as well enjoy the ride! The Tigers travel to Arizona on Friday night for a three-game set before a quick trip up to San Francisco, two places they do not often visit; the last time Detroit faced the Diamondbacks anywhere was in 2017.

Rony García takes the mound again, and the 24-year-old has actually been a passable rotation option so far. He had a couple of rougher outings, but his other three starts were at least serviceable, including a quality start against the Rangers last Saturday. Baseball Savant suggests...the bottom might fall out at any time, but this preview is trying to stay at least somewhat positive!

Detroit Tigers (26-43) at Arizona Diamondbacks (32-39)

Time/Place: 9:40 p.m., Chase Field
SB Nation site: AZ Snake Pit
Media: Apple TV+, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Rony García (1-2, 4.97 ERA) vs. RHP Merrill Kelly (6-4, 3.46 ERA)

Game 100 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Alexander 33.1 12.9 5.7 4.32 0.2
Kikuchi 65.0 25.1 13.9 5.81 -0.5

Merrill Kelly is having a surprisingly strong start to the season. Entering his fourth year in Arizona, the 33-year-old has proven that he can indeed be part of a major league rotation, even if it is towards the back end. However, his first couple of months of this season have him aiming for something a little more.

Through 14 starts, Kelly has posted a 3.46 ERA and 3.58 WHIP which would be on pace for his best non-2020 campaign. Despite seeing his strikeout numbers stay the same and walk rate actually worsen, the end results have been much better than in the rest of his career. This is thanks to an increased fastball velocity and good home run prevention.

The question will be if he can continue this throughout the season. He has been generating a decent 26.4 percent CSW rate, but even improved secondary offerings do not exactly jump off the page in terms of long-term viability. Still, the Diamondbacks are more than happy to see this version of Kelly, as they surely had conservative expectations for him, and even some modest regression would still be tolerable.

Key matchup: Greene & Tork vs. SSS

It has only been five games, but perhaps the Tigers got a two-for-one in the promotion of Riley Greene. Since his arrival, Greene has hit .375 and scored four runs while walking nearly twice as often as he strikes out. This has coincided with a nice mini stretch from Spencer Torkelson, who is hitting .316 with Greene in the lineup and having only struck out once. At 21 plate appearances, this is a pretty small sample, but it is not unreasonable to think this tandem could elevate each other going forward.