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Game 100 Preview: Tigers head north (mostly east) after a series win

The first 99 games have not gone according to plan.

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MLB: Game Two-Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

As the Detroit Tigers hit game number 100, reality has more than sunk in for most fans. The All-Star break has come and gone, and now is the time when moral victories — like a series win over the playoff-contending Padres — become a little more acceptable with the goalposts moving in.

The next big milestone is the trade deadline, which is somehow less than a week away. Despite rumors of names like Tarik Skubal, the Tigers are more than likely to see only modest activity as a seller, with the most likely candidates being relievers like Michael Fulmer and Andrew Chafin.

Thursday’s starter, Tyler Alexander, will not be going anywhere. A brief stint in the rotation in April was not too fruitful, but his return to the bullpen has yielded a 1.29 ERA over 21 innings since then. Detroit will not be expecting too much from him to open up the series, but hopefully, he can just treat this as a long relief outing.

Detroit Tigers (40-59) at Toronto Blue Jays (54-44)

Time/Place: 7:07 p.m., Rogers Centre
SB Nation site: Blue Jay Banter
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tyler Alexander (2-3, 4.05 ERA) vs. LHP Yusei Kikuchi (3-5, 5.12 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

Yusei Kikuchi has not been great to start his Toronto tenure, with a 5.12 ERA and 5.81 FIP in 16 starts making his signing look a little questionable. Add in a recent neck injury and it is fair to question what the Wild Card-leading Blue Jays can really expect from the 31-year-old down the stretch.

However, Kikuchi’s numbers this season are not too far off from his performances in Seattle (career 4.99 ERA, 5.06 FIP) and his strikeout numbers (10.3 K/9) are actually up from his preceding years. His walk rate has been elevated as well though, and his velocity has ticked down a little, so the bad has definitely outweighed the good in 2022.

Bottom-tier barrel rate, exit velocity, and xERA numbers sum up the story for Kikuchi. The whiffs are there, but control is a growing problem, and any contact has become a serious issue. The Jays were expecting a whole lot more from both Kikuchi and Jose Berrios, but so far the new tandem has been well below-average in their Toronto debut.

Key matchup: Candelario vs. the haters

The two-time Tiger of the Year limped into the All-Star break with a .191/.259/.311 slash line and many questions about his long-term role on the team. After posting two quality seasons in a row, Jeimer Candelario sat at just 62 wRC+ heading into the midseason stoppage. That rest seemed to do him some good, as the third baseman has hit .400 with four homers in the six games since. It has only been a week, but a strong second half should keep his spot heading into 2023. Should his slump continue, however, third base may be a question mark this offseason.