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Tigers at White Sox preview: Halfway there

Detroit heads into the second half of the season with a little momentum.

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Detroit Tigers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Of course, 34-47 is not what the Detroit Tigers wanted to see after 50 percent of the regular season had been completed. The playoffs were always going to be a stretch, but the 2022 campaign was effectively over after just a month. The list of reasons why has been covered ad nauseam, but at the official halfway mark that reality has fully sunk in.

And yet. The goalposts have been moved, but perhaps the final 81 games can still bring some enjoyment. A four-game sweep of the Guardians puts the Tigers at 6-2 over their last eight and shows that there could still be some fun moments ahead. Like all good things, though, fans will have to endure the bad with the good.

Embodying that motto is Beau Brieske, who for better or worse is sticking in the rotation. At times it has been great, including a five-start stretch beginning May 24 that featured a 2.54 ERA, but his three outings since (14 23 IP, 12 ER) have been less fun. The 24-year-old will have some leash left, but it becomes hard to live with a 11.5 percent barrel rate and just 5.5 K/9 like he has featured during this recent streak.

Brieske continues to tinker with his slider looking to improve that key third offering, but his fortunes today will largely depend on his fastball command against a White Sox lineup that is finally running at full power with the return of Eloy Jimenez. If Brieske can keep the ball in the park he’ll be fine, but Dylan Cease is a tough opponent. Hopefully the rookie right-hander can turn it around against Chicago, whom he has yet to face.

Detroit Tigers (34-47) at Chicago White Sox (38-41)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Beau Brieske (1-6, 4.54 ERA) vs. RHP Dylan Cease (7-3, 2.51 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

Dylan Cease is in his fourth major league season and life is good for the 26-year-old. The José Quintana trade seemed to work out pretty well for the White Sox, as the right-hander has followed up a 3.91 ERA from last season with an impressive 2.51 ERA (and 2.71 FIP) through 16 starts this year.

Cease has been close to elite this season, generating tons of whiffs thanks to a dominant fastball and striking out over 13 (!!) batters per nine innings. His previous start was surprising with just four strikeouts against the Giants, but prior to that he sat down eight, eight, 11, and 13 batters. Against the Tigers this trend should revert.

If there is one weakness it is that Cease will allow some baserunners. He may lead qualified starters in strikeouts per nine and rank in the top 10 in ERA, but his 1.24 WHIP is well below average. Of course, this means his left on base rate (75.6 percent) is going to be decent, but the Tigers should be able to at least get a few men aboard; scoring them, however, will be the challenge.

Key matchup: Spencer Torkelson vs. organizational patience

Obviously the first half of the season has not been great for (one of) Detroit’s top rookies, with a .192/.284/.297 slash line impressing no one. This is just a small stretch in what still projects to be a long career, but with the All-Star break approaching, one has to wonder if a spell in Triple-A Toledo is ahead. To avoid this, Torkelson likely needs to catch fire as the club embarks on a 12-game road trip to close out the first half. The clock is ticking.