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Gamethread: White Sox at Tigers

Lance Lynn returns to the bump, but is it already too late?

MLB: ALDS-Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros
The latest White Sox savior back from injury? Lance Lynn, making his season debut tonight in Motown.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Hit the Road, Jack

At this point, the worst thing about playing on the road (from the perspective of the fandom) is the decreased likelihood of a certain chant being picked up on TV cameras. But hey, maybe we’ll have some Detroit denizens to help us out — we have more in common with them than division rivalry.

It sucks to be a Sox fan, but it also sucks to be a Tigers fan

Believe it or not, the South Siders aren’t the only fanbase disappointed to in their front office to the level of mutiny: While the Tigers weren’t widely expected to compete for the division this season, there was at least hope that they could break .500 for the first time since 2016, after A.J. Hinch’s inaugural season at the helm followed up a 9-24 start with a competitive, 68-61 finish.

Instead, the wheels have fallen off, perhaps even harder than they have on either side of Chicago. Prized free agent acquisition Javier Báez has been the worst version of himself this year and is mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, hitting just .163 with four runs driven in (to 37 strikeouts) over his last 35 games. For all the angst we expressed about Andrew Vaughn last season, Spencer Torkelson’s debut has made the former’s look like an award winner, as the Arizona State Single Season Home Run Record Holder (Barry who?) has just a .583 OPS and accumulated -1.2 rWAR so far after ripping apart the minors for 30 homers and a .935 OPS last season. Austin Meadows has yet to hit his first home run as a Tiger after hitting one roughly every 20 at bats between 2019 and 2021.

If you think Sox fans are mad now, try going back to Detroit in 2019 and telling a fan that Miguel Cabrera (104 OPS+, 98 wRC+) would be the only regular starter in 2022 with a league-average hitting line.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s not much better on the pitching end. The White Sox will miss Tarik Skubal this series, whose 2.77 ERA and 2.29 FIP have been a revelation for Detroit even after recently suffering his worst outing since April. The prize of their 98-loss 2017 season, Casey Mize, likely won’t pitch until late 2023 at the earliest after undergoing Tommy John surgery this week, and fellow top pitching prospect Matt Manning remains on the injured list with shoulder problems and, when healthy since last year, has not shown much of the promise that was promised by his Top 10 prospect ranking.

The White Sox will see former first round pick Alex Faedo (2.92 ERA in seven starts) on Wednesday, and while he’s been a rare bright spot for a rebuild that appears to be sputtering before even getting their token ALDS appearance, his lack of above-average velocity or exceptional control portends regression to a solid-but-unspectacular back-end starting role, and while that will probably do wonders against the Sox offense this week, it doesn’t do much to demonstrate Al Avila’s chops at being an effective GM, something that seems to elude the large majority of the AL Central.

Roster notes

Hey, Lance Lynn is back! Just as we predicted when he went down in late April, the timing of his return couldn’t be any better, finally bringing to completion a talented but injury-bugged roster that’s now poised to overcome a difficult start to reach its full— hey, why are you laughing? STOP LAUGHING.

To make room for Lynn, Yasmani Grandal was placed on the injured list retroactive to yesterday with a somewhat vague lower back ailment, conforming perfectly with White Sox policy of mandating a period of between six and 60 days of being obviously injured to anybody with a functioning set of eyeballs before being allowed to heal and give a roster spot to somebody actually capable of playing baseball.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Lynn — who had spent the most recent month on the 60-day IL — unconditional release waivers were requested on Ryan Burr, whose tenure with the White Sox ends with a 4.08 ERA over 66 appearances, making him far and away the most successful result of Jerry Reinsdorf’s insistence on trading their international spending money between 2017 and 2019 rather than spending it on players who might do slightly more than a 4.08 ERA spread across four seasons.

As they told us in 2012: Appreciate The Game.

LINEUPS

Look, the team is still losing more often than they’re winning, but at least the top three or four spots in the lineup haven’t changed in, like, a week! Vaughn continues to lock down the 2-hole as the only hitter on the roster who’s comported himself with some manner of consistency in 2022, while AJ Pollock gets a crack at the leadoff spot for the fourth straight game as he looks to register his fifth straight multi-hit performance. Luis Robert and José Abreu remain steady presences behind them, while the assumption seems to be that sooner or later, somebody who isn’t Jake Burger will do a little bit of hitting out of spots No. 5-9.

Giving shades of the White Sox tri-García outfield days of yore, the Tigers counter with the Castros Harold and Willi at the top of their lineup followed by a mix of the underperformers noted above and, most interesting, the only Clemens scion to earn a shot at the big leagues. Sure, 25-year old Kody Clemens has yet to find his first big league hit in 18 tries, but having slashed .283/.316/.587 at Triple-A Toledo before receiving the call last week, he seems like a good bet to find some grass before the series is through.

Despite operating as a reliever for most of his time in the bigs, Rony García makes his fourth start of the season for the kitties tonight after holding the Yankees to two runs on four hits over five innings on June 5. Despite a healthy spin rate, García’s fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s and tends to work down in the zone, which has been moderately successful for him to this point despite running anathema to most modern pitching philosophies, perhaps due to a sinker-ish shape that isn’t terribly conducive to missing bats high in the zone. He’ll supplement this with a firm high-eighties changeup and a curveball that doesn’t move a whole lot (by curveball standards) but cuts anywhere from 12 to 16 mph off of his fastball velocity. All that is to say is that García thrives by messing up timing rather than simple power or nastiness, none of which bodes well against a lineup that doesn’t do well when forced even a half-inch out of their comfort zone, if it even exists.

First pitch is set for 6:10 p.m. CST on a gray but warming evening in Detroit. Every stretch is crucial for a team in the White Sox position, but if they can’t start turning things on in a big way as they begin stretches of the 15+ games they have remaining with each of their division opponents, it might be time to start planning your golf trips for October.