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Tigers vs. Twins preview: Do the Tigers have an opener strategy to unveil?

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A bullpen with a 5.20 ERA faces the best offense in baseball. What could go wrong?

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MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

“The opener” is a relatively new concept in baseball. Essentially, a relief pitcher who can matchup against an opponent’s first three hitters starts the game, pitches one inning and then someone takes over from there. We watched the Tampa Bay Rays innovate on this front for much of last season out of necessity.

The Detroit Tigers do not have a starting pitcher to use on Saturday against the Minnesota Twins and seem destined to go the opener route, or to simply roll through the bullpen as needed. However, the opener requires a plan and the right personnel. Though nobody has been announced yet, they will presumably give way to long reliever Nick Ramirez after an inning or three. So let’s just call it a bullpen day like old times.

The Tigers bullpen ranks 28th in the MLB with a 5.20 ERA will face a Twins offense that ranks first in the MLB in runs, home runs, AVG, SLG and OPS for the entire game... and things could get ugly quick.

Minnesota Twins (41-20) at Detroit Tigers (23-37)

Time/Place: 4:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Kyle Gibson (6-2, 3.75 ERA) vs. TBD

Game 61 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
TBD
Gibson 62.1 24.1 5.8 2.87 1.3

Gibson is in the middle of his second consecutive good-not-great season after a pair of bad seasons in Minnesota where he has spent all seven of his professional years.

He got off to a disastrous start to 2019 though, allowing 12 earned runs in 14 23 innings in his first three starts. He rebounded well in May and has continued his quality ways into June, as Saturday will be his first start with an ERA under 4.00 this season.

This will be the first time he sees the Tigers this year, but he made three starts against them in 2018, going 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA — his best mark against an AL Central team in the campaign.

Key matchup: Ron Gardenhire vs. game management

Did Gardy get himself tossed from Friday’s game to give himself extra time to think about who in the world is going to pitch on Saturday? It would not be the strangest thing to happen in Detroit this season.

The Tigers’ skipper has his work cut out for him in the mid-afternoon tilt. Even when he does have a starting pitcher, he tends to use multiple relievers each game whether his starter is playing well or not. With nine full innings to fill, he will likely have to let guys go longer than usual even if they are being shelled by Minnesota’s dynamite offense.

Prepare to see Nick Ramirez, Austin Adams, Daniel Stumpf, Buck Farmer and a whole lot more.

Prediction

This one is easy. Scuffling offense plus disastrous bullpen equals a bad afternoon for the Tigers. Minnesota takes the game and the series.

Update: The Tigers have announced RHP Buck Farmer as their starter for Saturday’s contest. We’ll see how many innings they try to get out of him.