It’s not the magic number teams are hoping for when heading into a given year, but the Detroit Tigers are dangerously close to clinching something this season. With either a loss or a Baltimore Orioles win, the Tigers will clinch the No. 1 pick in the 2020 MLB draft, their second top overall selection in the past three years.
Given that the Tigers still have six games remaining in the 2019 season and have not even put together a three-game winning streak since late May, the No. 1 pick seems all but certain at this point. Detroit has already lost 110 games, the second-highest total in franchise history, and are five full games “ahead” of the O’s in the standings.
Also in Detroit’s favor is a Minnesota Twins club that is on the doorstep of clinching the AL Central. Minnesota needs both a win and a Cleveland Indians loss to clinch the title on Wednesday, but with a four-game lead, they too are in great shape to keep playing baseball this October (until they run into New York or Houston, that is).
To get there, however, Minnesota needs to win a game started by a person named Randy Dobnak. I would hope that the universe would not reward this foolishness, but it’s 2019 and the Tigers are awful. Someone up there doesn’t seem to like us very much.
Minnesota Twins (97-60) at Detroit Tigers (46-110)
Time/Place: 6:40 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Randy Dobnak (1-1, 2.01 ERA) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (3-13, 4.58 ERA)
Game 2 Pitching Matchup
Randy Dobnak, a real person, is a 24-year-old who is as “came out of nowhere” as one can find these days. He signed with the Twins as an undrafted free agent out of Alderson-Broaddus College — a real place in West Virginia — who raced up the minor league ranks this year to make his MLB debut in August. He has made eight appearances since then, including one against the Tigers on August 31, and has managed a solid 17:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 22 1⁄3 innings.
Dobnak has generally served as a swingman of sorts, but has filled in as more of a true starter over the past couple weeks. He has looked good in his past couple outings, tossing a combined 10 1⁄3 innings with just three runs allowed (two earned) on nine hits. He has faced a healthy level of competition across his eight major league appearances as well, with over half of his innings coming against teams still in the playoff mix.
Dobnak’s raw stuff is also better than one might expect. His fastball sits around 92-93 miles per hour, and he has touched 95 mph in most of his starts. He also mixes in a healthy number of secondary offerings; the slider comes out more often against righties (37 percent usage), while his changeup is almost exclusively reserved for lefties (21 percent). Right-handed batters have fared much better against him at the major league level so far, but his overall platoon splits were fairly even in the minors.
Key matchup: NorHagen vs. the long ball
The Twins were able to squeak out a win on Tuesday without hitting a home run, but that has not been the norm for them in 2019. With nearly 300 home runs as a club this year — they are two behind the Yankees for the MLB lead and all-time record now — nearly everyone in their lineup is a threat to send a mistake into the seats.
Daniel Norris and Drew VerHagen have been very good at limiting the home run ball since becoming a package deal in August. Norris has given up just two home runs in his last seven outings, while VerHagen has surrendered just five long balls since the start of August. Two of those five from VerHagen came against the Twins in mid-August, however, and Norris has not faced Minnesota since early May. How those two fare against the Twins lineup will have a major impact on this game, and the Tigers’ chances of preventing an opponent from celebrating on their home field.
Of course, Spencer Turnbull did everything we asked of him on Tuesday and the Tigers still lost. Such is life this year.
The Tigers clinch the No. 1 overall pick with their 111th loss of the year.