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Tigers vs. Cleveland Preview: Let’s score some runs for Spencer Turnbull this time, huh?

The Tigers have not scored a single run in Turnbull’s first three starts against Cleveland this year.

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Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Let’s be honest: there aren’t many reasons to watch the Detroit Tigers right now. They have lost games at a historical pace for the better part of three months now — their .254 win percentage since May 1 is worse than the 2003 club — and have turned in far too many efforts like Tuesday’s 8-0 whitewashing at Progressive Field. The Tigers have done little to help themselves along the way, from passing up intriguing waiver claims to forcing square pegs through round holes. I’m sure Ryan Carpenter is a nice individual, but he’s not a major league caliber starter.

Fortunately, one of the few reasons to stay tuned will be in action on Wednesday. Spencer Turnbull has been one of the best parts of the 2019 Tigers, and will get another crack at Cleveland’s baseball team. Unfortunately, his previous attempts have not gone well. In his three starts against the should-be-Spiders, Turnbull has allowed a 7.07 ERA. Though he has only coughed up two home runs in 67 plate appearances against Cleveland hitters, they have still managed a 1.054 OPS.

Don’t let that subtract from what Turnbull has been able to do throughout this season, however. His 3.59 ERA is best among Detroit’s starters, and he has the rotation’s second-best FIP. He may not flirt with an ERA title or win a Rookie of the Year Award like Michael Fulmer did in 2016, but he is enjoying a solid debut season, and looks to be a useful part of the Tigers’ rotation in future years.

It would be nice if he could snap this nasty little losing streak, though.

Detroit Tigers (29-61) at Cleveland Indians (53-40)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Progressive Field
SB Nation site: Let’s Go Tribe
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-8, 3.59 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Clevinger (2-2, 3.99 ERA)

Game 92 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Turnbull 92.2 20.9 9.1 4.13 1.6
Clevinger 29.1 39.7 10.3 2.63 1.0

Mike Clevinger has looked absolutely dominant in two-thirds of his starts this season, with numbers that would rival any pitcher in baseball. Even if you include the bad starts, he would have the best FIP in the American League among qualified starters.

The problem? Clevinger has only made six starts this year due to injury. The 28-year-old first ran into trouble back in April, when a muscle strain in his upper back and shoulder forced him onto the 60-day injured list. He had looked unhittable through his first two starts with just two hits allowed to 22 strikeouts in 12 scoreless innings to open the year.

After a short rehab stint, Clevinger returned in mid-June. The results were... not great. He gave up 12 runs in just 6 13 frames, and was put back on the injured list later that month, this time with an ankle sprain.

Fortunately for Clevinger, everything seems to be OK this time. He has made two July starts without any snags, and has allowed just one run in 11 innings of work. His fastball velocity and raw stuff seems to be unaffected by his previous shoulder issue, and he worked up to 92 pitches without any reported difficulties in his last outing.

Given his career numbers against the Tigers — a 2.18 ERA and .576 OPS allowed in 45 13 innings — this spells bad news for Detroit’s lineup.

Key matchup: Tigers offense vs. scoring runs

We have all but copied and pasted this section in every game preview for the past few months, but it especially rings true in Turnbull starts. The rookie righthander has received the worst run support in the American League this season, with just 2.7 runs per game. The Tigers offense put up five runs in his last start, just the fifth time they have done so this season. They have managed more than five runs in just one of Turnbull’s 18 starts.

The worst part? They still have yet to score a single run in any of his starts against Cleveland.


Clevinger dominates and the Tigers lose again.