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Tigers vs. Rays preview: Spencer Turnbull aims to deliver another home win for Detroit

It will be the young stud against the rejuvenated veteran at Comerica Park as the Tigers aim for a series win.

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the dust has finally settled following the first two days of the 2019 MLB Draft, the Detroit Tigers can get back to work on securing another high pick in the 2020 draft... though defeating the Tampa Bay Rays — as they did rather capably on Tuesday evening — goes against that philosophy.

The 26-year-old Spencer Turnbull, one of the team’s true potential building blocks at this point, will start for Detroit on Tuesday, seeking to continue his strong season against the talented Rays. After back-to-back shaky starts, the righthander got himself back on track with a strong showing against the Atlanta Braves over the weekend.

Can Turnbull deliver a home series win for the Tigers?

Tampa Bay Rays (35-23) at Detroit Tigers (23-34)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: DRays Bay
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-4, 2.84 ERA) vs. RHP Charlie Morton (6-0, 2.54) ERA)

Game 59 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Turnbull 66.2 22.3 8.4 3.79 1.3
Morton 67.1 30.4 9.9 2.87 1.9

On the opposite end of the age spectrum is the 35-year-old Charlie Morton, who has had an interesting path to where he is now. Morton made 161 starts between 2008 and 2016 — mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates with short stints in Atlanta and Philadelphia on either end — and compiled a career 4.54 ERA and 84 ERA+ in the time span. When he went down with a torn hamstring in early 2016, he was mostly written off as a guy who may likely finish his career as a Triple-A guy used sometimes for spot starts.

The Houston Astros saw something in him, though, and the two parties agreed on a two-year, $14 million deal. Each side was rewarded, as Morton made 55 starts in the two seasons with a 3.36 ERA and 122 ERA+ while making appearances in both the ALCS and World Series en route to the Astros’ first championship.

After making his first career All-Star game during his 11th season in 2018, Morton has picked up where he left off, dominating as a 35-year-old during his first season with the Rays. Though pitcher wins are an admittedly silly statistic, the fact that Tampa Bay is 8-4 in games started by Morton and he has yet to take a losing decision speaks to his value so far.

With precious few “bad starts” to his name in 2019, Morton has dominated teams at the bottom of the standings, posting 17 13 innings with two runs and 19 strikeouts against the bottom-dwelling Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays. To go with it, his road numbers are stronger than his home statistics, and with Comerica Park’s large outfield beckoning, Morton is likely itching to take the mound on Wednesday.

Key matchup: Tigers offense vs. a mid-week hangover

Detroit scored nine runs for the fifth time this season on Tuesday. While it is always exciting to see the bats working well, they have seemingly developed a trend; following the previous four nine-plus run games, the Tigers are 0-4 with a total of nine runs scored in all.


While Turnbull’s talent has the ability to keep any game relatively interesting, Morton’s recent track record of dominance should be able to suffocate the production-starved Detroit offense to claim another win for the determined Rays.