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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: Spencer Turnbull gets the nod in the Tigers’ home opener

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Coming off a winning road trip against the AL East, it’s hard not to be excited about this young squad.

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

It’s great to be back, baby.

Look. It’s never fun to start the year off with a seven-game road trip. It is even worse to score 1.7 runs per game over the first seven games of the season with only two home runs in that span. But here we are. The Tigers have 12 runs to their name after their first two series, and only two home runs — Christin Stewart’s Opening Day game-winning shot in the 10th inning against Toronto, and Gordon Beckham’s game-winning solo shot on Wednesday in the Bronx.

...Wait a minute. Those were both game-winners? What is this team’s reco—

Oh my goodness. They are over .500.

That’s right. Thanks to the sensational efforts of the Tigers rotation and bullpen, the team enters their first homestand of 2019 with a winning record. There are many players to thank. First and foremost is Matthew Boyd, who leads the American League with 23 strikeouts. Then, of course, there is Jordan Zimmermann, who currently sports a 0.66 ERA after two starts (including a start in which he threw 6 23 perfect innings to start the season). There is also Matt Moore, who threw seven innings of two-hit ball in his Tigers debut, as well as the Tigers bullpen — notably Shane Greene, who leads the American League with four saves.

Today, our attention turns to the lone rookie in the rotation: Spencer Turnbull. We recapped the encouraging signs we saw in Turnbull’s first start a few days ago. Sure, he is not likely to match the brilliance of Boyd and Zimmermann’s early-season efforts — inexperienced pitchers like Turnbull will take their lumps from time to time — but it will nevertheless be interesting to see how the 26-year-old performs in the team’s home opener.

Kansas City Royals (2-3) at Detroit Tigers (4-3)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: Jakob Junis (1-0, 4.76 ERA) vs. Spencer Turnbull (0-1, 5.40 ERA)

Game 14 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pineda 9.0 31.3 6.3 3.02 0.3
Ross 12.0 25.0 10.4 4.55 0.1

The Royals will turn to Jakob Junis to quiet the Tigers lineup, which isn’t exactly red-hot in the first place. Junis dominated Detroit in 2018, going 4-0 against the Tigers in five starts with a 1.95 ERA. He pitched 37 innings in those games (over seven innings per start!) with 30 strikeouts to only 28 hits and four walks allowed.

Junis was mostly successful in his first start of the season against the White Sox, cruising through five innings before allowing a three-run home run to Jose Abreu in the sixth. Luckily for Junis, the Tigers are having trouble hitting home runs early in the season, so the team may struggle to score much off of him should the power outage continue.

Key Matchup: Jakob Junis vs. the Tigers lineup

Simply put, the Tigers could not get anything going against Junis in 2018. If they want to produce an Opening Day win, they will need to at the very least work his pitch count and get to the Royals’ leaky bullpen as soon as possible. Junis only threw 92 pitches in his first start of the season, so hopefully he is on an early-season leash once again on Thursday.

Prediction

Spencer Turnbull wins the battle of the 26-year-old bearded pitchers as the Tigers offense takes advantage of a weak Royals bullpen.