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Tigers vs Athletics Preview: Those pesky Thursday day games return

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Two struggling teams meet up while everyone’s at work to make sure nobody notices that a game is happening.

Cincinnati Reds v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After suffering a sweep at the hands of the best team in the American League West — and American League as a whole — the Tigers will now turn their attention to the worst (per win percentage) in the start of a four-game home series against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday in a rare weekday afternoon tilt.

Detroit will have to recover from a stretch of brutal baseball, as they have taken New York Knicks lottery-level losses (okay, maybe not that bad) recently. The Tigers have dropped six of their last eight, and have been outscored by 38 runs in that stretch — more than half of their -67 run differential for the season.

Manager Ron Gardenhire will have to figure out who’s playing third base in the absence of Jeimer Candelario, who was demoted to Triple-A Toledo following the team’s loss to Houston on Wednesday. This game has potential to be exciting due to the big league debut of a prospect like Willi Castro… or it might just be Pete Kozma.

Coming into the series, both teams are on three-game losing streaks. The A’s are actually .007 points behind the Tigers in win percentage — take that for what you will — but are just 5-15 on the road this season.

Can the Tigers get back in the win column on Thursday?

Oakland Athletics (19-25) at Detroit Tigers (18-23)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Athletics Nation
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Chris Bassitt (1-1, 2.55 ERA) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (1-1, 2.42 ERA)

Game 42 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Bassitt 24.2 31.6 7.1 4.20 0.4
Turnbull 44.2 23.0 9.4 3.62 0.9

The Tigers will trot out a reliable starter for the first time since Monday as the upstart Spencer Turnbull will make his ninth start of the season. The red-haired rookie currently has the fourth-best earned run average in the American League at 2.42 over 44 23 innings of work.

On the other side, the A’s will send out Chris Bassitt, who has a 2.55 ERA over four starts this season with a sub-1.00 WHIP. While he hasn’t faced any dynamite offenses this season, he recently dominated the Cincinnati Reds, striking out nine over 7 23 innings while allowing three runs. While he has yet to throw more than 90 innings in a single season during his five-year career, he is building off an abbreviated-yet-successful 2018 where he finished with a 3.02 ERA in 11 games.

Key Matchup: Both teams vs. game time

Neither of these pitchers are familiar with the other team’s lineups. Neither has outstanding splits against right-handed pitchers. A “Turnbull vs. Bassitt” matchup is too obvious to note, so let’s keep in mind that the Tigers concluded their game Wednesday around 10 p.m. and that the A’s are traveling from the west coast — though they did have a day off to try and adjust. How will the Tigers handle their quick turnaround on a Thursday afternoon? How will the A’s adjust to the weird East Coast scheduling?

Prediction

This one should be more palatable than the Astros series, but both teams have struggled on offense recently and are trotting out pitchers with plenty of confidence. I would be surprised if either team puts up more than four runs on either Turnbull or Bassitt, so whichever team can ride out their starter for longest likely has the best chance to end their skid.