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Tigers at Athletics preview: Trying to turn the page on the first half

The Tigers need to find some answers over the final 10 weeks of the season.

The 92nd MLB All-Star baseball game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

There isn’t much left to salvage where the 2022 Detroit Tigers’ season is concerned. Instead the club is faced with a host of conflicting issues that are all about the future. As a group, A.J. Hinch needs to find a way to get this roster to gel and find some consistency despite a lot of missing pieces. At the same time, this is also a group that is probably going to see a fair bit of relief talent traded away prior to the trade deadline, and has several veteran players who are no longer part of the club’s future plans playing out the string the rest of the way. Those scenarios don’t go together particularly well.

Decisions going forward now have to be calibrated to the needs of the 2023 Tigers, and if they’re doing it right on the sell-side, there are going to be some awkward good-byes along the way.

So, despite having little to lose, and nothing but pride and job security to play for, things aren’t necessarily going to get easier. Best case scenario now is that they get some of their young players going, particularly Spencer Torkelson and young starters like Matt Manning and Rony Garcia, enough to survive the second half and go into a crucial offseason with a clearer head and a better idea how the 2023 roster will shape up. Along the way, the bullpen is pretty likely to lose at least one or two key members, as Al Avila desperately tries to start addressing next year’s roster with trades.

They’ll begin in Oakland, as the peculiar scheduling caused by the owner’s lockout over the offseason continue. A straight doubleheader Thursday makes up for a short series originally scheduled in April, followed by an off day on Friday, and then a brief five game homestand against the division leading Minnesota Twins and the San Diego Padres. Bit of an odd way to start the second half. Last Sunday’s concluding game in the Cleveland series was a bit of mercy, giving them an extra long rest. Here’s hoping they take advantage.

We’ve seen enough tanking over the last five years. And as we’ve seen, picking up top doesn’t necessarily land you the best player. The Tigers need to prove they can address and solve some of their many issues, and they need to play a much better brand of baseball the rest of the way. Hopefully they can restore a bit of confidence that the organization won’t remain a disaster area much longer. They couldn’t ask for a better opponent to start turning things around against.

Detroit Tigers (37-55) at Oakland Athletics (32-61)

Time/Place: 3:37 p.m., Oakland Coliseum
SB Nation Site: Athletics Nation
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchups-

Gm 1: LHP Tarik Skubal ( 6-8, 4.11 ERA) vs. LHP Zach Logue (3-4, 5.16 ERA)

Gm 2: RHP Garrett Hill (1-1, 5.73 ERA) vs RHP Frankie Montas (3-9, 3.26 ERA)

Last time out, Skubal looked like he was starting to turn things around after a string of rough starts in late June and July. He was spotting his fourseam fastball and slider inside to right-handers more effectively, which is my personal bellweather for how his command looks in a given start. However, he lost the plot for one inning, allowing the Royals to drop a four spot on him. There were some defensive issues involved as well. If the issue was fatigue, Skubal should be in good shape in this one, taking on an opponent in the A’s that he should dominate.

As for Hill, the stuff continues to look a little soft for regular work at the major league level. After a solid debut against the Guardians, the White Sox pounded him for six runs the last time out. The young right-hander has to rely on his command and hasn’t shown a putaway breaking ball yet in two major league starts. The slider is good enough, and if he’s more consistent with it tonight, he should be able to rack up a few more strikeouts and put together a solid game against a really poor Oakland offense. But he just doesn’t have the fastball to dominate major league hitters. Hopefully he’s able to locate effectively in this one.

Overall, Hill has to have everything going well to pitch at this level, but should benefit from Chris Fetter finishing school to a degree if he can pitch well enough to keep getting looks in the second half. If he can keep Oakland in the park he’s likely to put together a quality start in this one.

The Tigers brought back Zack Short for a little temporary infield help with Spencer Torkelson back in Toledo. Kody Clemens should stick around in Tork’s spot, while Short is a short-term move, and will probably be headed right back out as reliever Jose Cisnero appears due to return to the bullpen within days, and possibly that move could even come between games this evening.

As for the A’s, Frankie Montas, possibly the top starting pitcher available at the trade deadline goes for them in Game 2. The right-hander battled a mild, but very poorly timed, shoulder issue a few weeks back, and was shut down. The A’s will be hoping he’s healthy and ready to carve up the Tigers, as his trade value hangs in the balance.

Rookie left-hander Zach Logue will oppose Skubal in Game 1. Logue is a classic soft-tossing lefty with a cutter and a decent changeup. The Tigers should make mincemeat out of him, but we’ve seen this show too many times to expect it.