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Tigers vs. Twins Preview: Spencer Turnbull is pitching against somebody

The Twins have not announced a starter for Tuesday’s game, so expect a bunch of relievers.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Well, here we are. It’s the final week of the regular season, and the Tigers have just six games remaining on their 2018 schedule. Three of those games could be meaningful affairs, but only because the Milwaukee Brewers are three games away from clinching a playoff spot. The Tigers have six more chances to get a look at some young players, including Tuesday starter Spencer Turnbull, who was roughed up by these same Twins in his last outing.

Seeing a young player get rocked early in his MLB career isn’t surprising, but the way it happened caught me off guard a bit. I thought Turnbull would cruise through a few innings, riding that mid-90s fastball with cutting action as the Twins lineup got their first look at him. Then, after going through the lineup once, Turnbull’s lack of secondary pitches would bite him as a decent Twins offense made adjustments.

Instead, the big righthander had trouble commanding his arsenal. He only walked one batter, but was consistently missing his spots. Five of the six hits he allowed were when even or behind in the count, and he was bailed out by Comerica Park’s deep outfield on a couple more occasions.

But like a reliever put back into the game right after a bad outing the night before, Turnbull has a chance to put that rough start behind him. He will face that same Twins lineup again on Tuesday, perhaps providing a stiffer test than if he were to face a tougher batting order for the first time. If he can make adjustments and hold the Twins at bay — on the road, no less — that could bode well for him going forward.

Detroit Tigers (63-93) at Minnesota Twins (72-83)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Spencer Turnbull (0-1, 10.80 ERA) vs. TBD

Game 162 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Turnbull 11.0 17.4 4.4 2.25 0.4
Gonzalez 166.0 20.1 10.9 4.20 1.8

Frustratingly, the Twins still have yet to announce a starter for Tuesday’s game. Normally, this could be chalked up to a bit of cagey deception from an opposing manager, especially if a team is searching for an injury replacement or waiting on the status of one of their players. In this case, however, it probably just means the Twins will be deploying a bunch of relievers. They used Gabriel Moya as an Opener twice in their series at Comerica Park last week, and seem content to finish out the season with just a few starters.

Luckily for Detroit, Minnesota’s bullpen isn’t very good. Their 4.57 ERA is the sixth-highest in baseball, and third-worst in the American League. Their 4.41 FIP also ranks in the bottom third of the AL and MLB. They have been better than usual at striking hitters out, though, with a strikeout rate that ranks right around MLB average. Their underlying numbers suggest even better, with an 11.7 percent whiff rate that is 10th in baseball. They have been better than average at limiting walks as well.

Key matchups: Twins pitchers vs. the long ball

Despite better than average strikeout and walk rates, Minnesota’s bullpen still ranks among baseball’s worst. This is due to the second-highest home run rate in the game (topped only by the Cleveland Indians, weirdly enough). Twins relievers have coughed up 1.39 dingers per nine innings this season, with more than 15 percent of their fly balls ultimately leaving the yard.

But this could be a case where the moveable object meets a stoppable force. The Tigers have struggled to hit home runs all season long, and rank dead-last in the American League in this category. Their overall offensive production is now up to 25th in the majors (but still last in the AL) in spite of their difficulties in putting the ball over the fence.


Turnbull has a better start but still picks up the loss in a low-scoring affair.

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