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Tigers vs. Twins Preview: Get ready to see a lot of these Twins

Six of the Tigers’ final 13 games are against Minnesota.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals Peter G. Aiken

Have you found yourself wondering where the Minnesota Twins are on Detroit’s schedule? Do you miss seeing Joe Mauer’s dumb face? Do you long to see Brian Dozier hit more homers off Tigers pitchers after they try to challenge him with an inside fastball yet again? Do you need more Ron Gardenhire fluff pieces in your life?

Well, I have good news for you. The Tigers have just 13 games remaining this season, but six of them are against these Twins. The two teams will play a three-game series at Comerica Park this week — starting with Bark In the Park (!) on Monday — and then travel to Minnesota for a three-game set starting next Tuesday.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much more to say about this phenomenon. Detroit and Minnesota have long been eliminated from playoff contention, and are only jostling for draft position at this point. Ditto the Kansas City Royals, Detroit’s opponent in the series between their twin tilts against the Twins. The Tigers only have three games remaining against a team with a playoff pulse, and the Milwaukee Brewers might be out of the picture by the time Detroit rolls into town next Friday.

Yay September baseball!

Minnesota Twins (68-81) at Detroit Tigers (61-88)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Gabriel Moya (3-1, 4.88 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (7-7, 4.17 ERA)

Game 150 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Moya 31.1 20.7 8.9 4.59 0.1
Zimmermann 116.2 20.4 4.1 4.65 1.0

The Twins haven’t had a great season, but one recent bright spot has been rookie lefthander Gabriel Moya. He wasn’t a highly regarded prospect and his overall numbers aren’t great, but the 23-year-old southpaw has a 4.07 ERA since rejoining Minnesota’s bullpen in late July. He only has 18 strikeouts to 10 walks in those 24 13 innings, but he works up in the zone with his low-90s fastball and generates a ton of pop-ups. That 23.1 percent pop-up rate doesn’t seem sustainable, but he did the same in the minors (according to FanGraphs’ batted ball data) and could make it work as a middle relief arm.

A starter, though? Probably not. Moya’s best pitch is a changeup that FanGraphs graded as a plus offering when they ranked him 23rd in Minnesota’s system prior to the start of this year.

Moya was acquired from Arizona last summer for catcher J.R. Murphy, then made his MLB debut later that summer. He’s now 23-year-old big-league bullpen inventory in Triple-A, and while it isn’t loud stuff, there’s enough here to play for a while in a middle-relief role in the big leagues. Moya sits 90-91 and touches 93 mph but makes it work by operating up in the zone with a rising fastball to set up his above-average changeup and curveball that he tends to throw down in the zone for a tunneling boost. His command is average and needs to be that or better to make this fastball approach work, which is why he threw under 50% heaters last season.

Moya’s command was better in Triple-A action this year; he walked just over two batters per nine en route to a 4.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.90 ERA in 42 23 innings.

Key matchup: Tigers hitters vs. all the dang relievers in the world

While I’ve spent the last few paragraphs detailing exactly what Minnesota’s starter will bring to the table, we probably won’t see much of Moya in this game. He hasn’t thrown more than 38 pitches in a major league outing this season, and hasn’t thrown more than two innings in either of his starts this month. With a full September roster at his disposal, Twins manager Paul Molitor can play matchups to his heart’s content. So, enjoy seeing six different pitchers by the fifth inning.

Yay September baseball!

Prediction

The Tigers build an early lead and hang on for their second win in a row.

Gameday reading