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Tigers vs. Twins Preview: Spencer Turnbull looking to finish strong in final week of season

The Tigers kick off their final home series of the season on Tuesday.

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins - Game One Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

When thinking about Spencer Turnbull’s first full season in the major leagues, I’m reminded somewhat of Jeremy Bonderman. Sure, the comparison isn’t perfect — Turnbull was over six years older than Bonderman was at the start of their respective rookie seasons — but the end results are fairly similar; Bonderman posted a 6-19 record with a 5.56 ERA for a godawful 2003 Tigers team, while Turnbull takes a league-leading 15 losses into the final week of the 2019 regular season.

Fortunately, neither of them will lose 20 games.

Unfortunately, Turnbull might get closer than he is right now. He bounced back with a solid start in his last outing, a five-inning effort against the Cleveland Indians on September 18, but has otherwise faded considerably in the second half of the season. Since the All-Star break, Turnbull has allowed an .881 OPS and 7.23 ERA in 47 13 innings.

The Twins haven’t exactly been easy on opposing pitchers either. Minnesota’s lineup ranks third in baseball with a 116 wRC+, and they trail the New York Yankees on the all-time list with 297 home runs hit this year. We saw firsthand what the Twins can do when they hit six home runs in one game against the Tigers recently — a game Detroit won, oddly enough.

Home runs or not, can they pick up another win over Minnesota on Tuesday evening?

Minnesota Twins (96-60) at Detroit Tigers (46-109)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jake Odorizzi (14-7, 3.59 ERA) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-15, 4.66 ERA)

Game 156 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Odorizzi 153.0 26.8 8.2 3.44 4.0
Turnbull 137.0 22.0 9.2 4.12 2.5

A team doesn’t get to 96-plus wins without some breakout performances from their role players, and Jake Odorizzi certainly fits that bill for the Twins. The 29-year-old righthander, a solid mid-rotation starter for most of his career, has pitched like a front-end arm in 2019. His 3.59 ERA in 153 innings is good enough for a 128 ERA+, and his 3.44 FIP is tied for sixth in the American League among players with at least 150 innings pitched. His 26.8 percent strikeout rate is a career-best, and he has limited opponents to under one home run per nine innings — an impressive feat, considering AL pitchers are at 1.45 dingers per nine frames this year.

Naturally, the Tigers have been a big part of Odorizzi’s success. He has allowed just four runs across three starts against Detroit this year, and has a whopping 20 strikeouts to one walk in 18 innings. The Tigers touched him up for three of those four runs (and five of the 11 hits he has allowed) in their last meeting, but still struck out seven times across five innings in a 4-3 win at Comerica Park on September 2.

Key matchup: Turnbull vs. the home run ball

While Turnbull hasn’t fared well against the Twins this year, there are a couple of slivers of hope to be found. First, Turnbull has only allowed one home run in 10 13 innings of work against Minnesota on the year, and has generally stayed immune to the home run bonanza that has affected the rest of baseball. Turnbull has also seemingly rediscovered his strikeout touch in his last couple outings, with eight punchouts apiece against both Cleveland and the Yankees. The Twins have been one of the most strikeout-averse clubs in the majors, however, with a strikeout rate of just 20.9 percent on the season.


The Twins get to Turnbull and the bullpen, and hand the Tigers their 110th loss of the season.