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Tigers vs. Indians Preview: Spencer Turnbull and company eye a series win

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Turnbull will face off against another talented young starting pitcher in Shane Bieber.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

As disappointing as the Tigers were on Tuesday, they were an absolute treat to watch on Wednesday. Matthew Boyd was great for his third time in three outings this season, while offensive contributions by Niko Goodrum, John Hicks, and Josh Harrison pushed this young and scrappy Detroit squad past Trevor Bauer and the Indians to even the series.

On Thursday, the Tigers have reached the biggest moment yet in their quest to win the April American League Central title, as they go for a series win against their heated rival. Taking the mound for Detroit will be none other than Spencer “Red Bull” Turnbull himself. You might know Turnbull from his stellar start last week as the Tigers celebrated Opening Day at Comerica Park. That’s right; Turnbull tied a Tigers home opener record by recording 10 strikeouts en route to a no-decision in Detroit’s win against the Kansas City Royals.

This time, Turnbull’s opponent may prove to be more challenging than before, as he will face off against Shane Bieber and a lineup featuring Jose Ramirez and a red-hot Carlos Santana.

Cleveland Indians (7-4) at Detroit Tigers (8-4)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Let’s Go Tribe
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Shane Bieber (0-0, 3.38 ERA) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (0-1, 4.09 ERA)

Game 13 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Bieber 8 36.7 6.7 3.08 0.1
Turnbull 11 31.9 8.5 2.9 0.3

Shane Bieber has only started one game thus far this season for Cleveland — he had a second two-inning relief appearance in the Indians’ opening series against the Twins — but the results were promising for Cleveland fans. Bieber went six innings, allowing two runs on just two hits and two walks, while striking out nine batters.

Turnbull, meanwhile, has made two starts. His first start in Toronto was not his finest — he went five innings, striking out five and allowing three runs on four hits and two walks — but his performance to open this home stand was stellar. It’s not every day a rookie pitcher notches double-digit strikeouts, let alone on a stage such as the Tigers’ home opener.

Matchup to Watch: Niko Goodrum vs. Shane Bieber’s fastball

Bieber’s best pitch is his slider, which was worth 2.7 runs above average per FanGraphs’ pitch values in 2018. His fastball, however, leaves something to be desired: it was 7.7 runs below average in 2018. Could this mean a continuation of Niko Goodrum’s hot streak? Per Statcast, Goodrum posted a .491 expected slugging percentage against fastballs in 2018 and has a .660 expected slugging percentage against fastballs to date in 2019. Sure, the sample size is lower in 2019, but based on his recent performance, Goodrum should be a player to watch today.

Prediction

In the opening game of the series, we predicted a win. The Tigers lost. On Wednesday, we predicted a loss. Detroit won. With that in mind, the Tigers will lose by double digits.