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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: Spencer Turnbull returns to start the second half

Turnbull was one of the few Tigers to have a positive first half.

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MLB: JUN 22 Tigers at Indians Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to Part Two. The 2019 season probably has not surprised Tigers fans in the slightest, but that does not make the results any more tolerable. As expected, the offense has been lackluster, thanks to a lineup with no stars and very few even average players, and the bullpen continues to be a running joke across Major League Baseball.

The one decent area of the team is the starting rotation, which still has plenty of flaws but also a couple of bright spots. Matthew Boyd did not get himself to the All-Star Game, but he might make his way out of Detroit before the trade deadline this year with his 3.87 ERA and 32.0 percent strikeout rate. However, the biggest surprise has been Friday’s starter, Spencer Turnbull.

2019 may not have been the last chance for Turnbull, but with plenty of young arms quickly rising up the ranks of the organization, this was the year for the 26-year-old to finally prove his worth at the major league level. Turnbull has done that and more, looking like a legitimate mid-rotation starter and acting as one of the few stable pieces on the whole Tigers roster.

His first 17 starts were good, but now Turnbull needs to prove that his first half was not just a hot stretch, but instead representative of who he truly is. The start of the season went just about as well as possible for the righthander, but the second half is where he can really influence his long-term outlook in Detroit, for better or for worse.

Detroit Tigers (28-57) at Kansas City Royals (30-61)

Time/Place: 8:15 p.m., Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-8, 3.31 ERA) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (3-5, 4.28 ERA)

Game 88 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Boyd 107.0 32.0 4.5 3.55 2.8
Keller 110.2 15.9 11.3 4.60 1.2

Neither Danny Duffy nor the Royals are too exciting. Kansas City is right next to Detroit at the bottom of the AL Central — and the entire league — and is not too interested in competing this year either. Duffy owns a career 3.95 ERA and 4.17 FIP, and though his numbers are slightly off this pace, he continues to be essentially who he is.

Duffy has mixed in more sliders (31 percent) than his typical pitch mix, which could be in part to his declining fastball velocity. The change has not been too impactful, however, as his contact rate has stayed the same and strikeouts have fallen to under 8.00 per nine innings for the first time in four seasons. His batted ball rates have remained fairly consistent in terms of ground balls-fly balls and hard-soft contact.

The Royals are in the bottom 10 in both starter ERA and WHIP, but Duffy is actually leading the team in runs allowed. He did miss the first month of the season with a shoulder issue, but that did not seem to affect his performance upon return. Perhaps his most valuable asset is his ability to eat innings for a struggling Kansas City; Duffy averages 5.8 innings per start this year.

Key matchup: Detroit batters vs. Duffy

This will be Duffy’s second start against the Tigers in 2019. He looked strong in the first matchup, allowing just four hits and two runs over seven innings while striking out seven. If you’re counting on splits, the Tigers heavily right-handed lineup hasn’t had any more success against southpaws than they have against right-handed pitchers. The Tigers have struggled against just about everyone, but maybe something will awaken in them following some time off.


The Tigers start off the second half just like the first, earning a win in a low-scoring affair.