What if you took the two kids who are always picked last on the playground and made them play one-on-one?
The Tigers, who are on a six — well, kind of seven, but let’s take it easy — game losing streak, are hosting the Miami Marlins, who are actually on a three-game tear after suffering a seven-game skid of their own. Detroit’s -91 run differential is the second-worst in baseball, and worse than Miami’s -89 despite the Marlins sitting five games worse than their mid-week opponent in the standings.
While Tuesday’s starting pitching matchup is intriguing, there isn’t much else to this game. Both teams trot out bad offenses, bad bullpens and unspectacular defenses. Neither Miami nor Detroit has a player with over 20 RBI on the season, and both clubs are the only teams that fall within that category. The Marlins’ bullpen ERA ranks 26th in baseball at 5.35, while Detroit’s is 28th at 5.67. Both teams rank at or near the bottom of their respective leagues in most advanced metrics.
Miami Marlins (13-31) at Detroit Tigers (18-26)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Fish Stripes
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Caleb Smith (3-1, 2.25 ERA) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (2-3, 2.40 ERA)
Game 46 Pitching Matchup
At least game one of this three-game series will feature a couple pitchers who are off to solid starts in 2019: Spencer Turnbull and Caleb Smith.
We’ll start with the one you know less about. Smith is a 27-year-old lefthander who has spent most of his MLB career with the Marlins after being traded by the Yankees for Mike King in 2017. Smith has never posted an ERA under 4.10 at the highest level (in limited action), but is currently off to a strong start, striking out 64 batters while issuing only 14 walks in 48 innings en route to a 2.25 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He has served as the staff ace so far — whatever that may mean for a 13-31 team.
Here’s more from our series preview:
The Marlins acquired him that winter and unlocked some serious strikeout potential, as Smith fanned 88 batters in 77 1⁄3 innings with the Fish last season. He has been even tougher to square up in 2019, holding opponents to a 2.25 ERA while striking out 35.2 percent of the batters he faces. Better yet, his walk rate has taken a big step forward after being something of a hindrance last year.
Turnbull should prove a worthy opponent opposite Smith despite his lesser numbers and back-to-back bumpy starts. The Marlins appear to be a favorable matchup for the talented righthander, as his issues with walks may be a non-factor against a Miami lineup that does not draw many of their own.
Key matchup: Miguel Cabrera vs Caleb Smith
Whether he is hustling or not, Miguel Cabrera has been the only hitter in Detroit’s lineup who has actually hit the ball this past week. He is batting .333/.440/.429 in his last seven games, and has predictably performed best against lefties in 2019; his only home run has come against a southpaw to go with a .381/.519/.619 line. Issues with fastballs aside — Smith’s heater shouldn’t be enough to bother him — if anyone is going to break the Tigers’ skid against a more-than-beatable team, it will have to be the big man.
The Tigers are hard to watch right now, and everything is terrible. Nonetheless, they should actually be favored to get their first win since May 12.