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Tigers vs. Reds Preview: Detroit fighting for a series win in Cincinnati

The Tigers upset the Reds on Saturday and could come away with another W in the series finale if the offense clicks again.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

In a surprising twist of fate, the Tigers were able to topple the Reds on Saturday despite a middling effort from the pitching staff. Of course, even the worst teams win once in a while, but it’s impressive that they were able to go toe-to-toe with a postseason favorite with one of their best pitchers on the mound.

The Tigers are shooting for a repeat performance from their offense on Sunday against another tough pitcher. Detroit batters will be facing off against a familiar opponent, former Cleveland hurler Trevor Bauer. The enigmatic righthander had a career year two seasons ago, and despite falling back to earth in 2019, he is still a dangerous pitcher whose strength is drawing strikeouts.

For the Tigers’ offense to supply the team with another win, they will need to be especially poised at the plate. Detroit’s lineup features a number of players who struggle to take walks, which probably won’t change when facing a pitcher who lives and dies by fooling hitters into swinging at bad pitches. Tigers hitters will need to pounce on his mistakes and turn them into hits if the team is going to have any shot at victory.

Detroit Tigers (1-1) at Cincinnati Reds (1-1)

Time/Place: 1:10 pm, Great American Ball Park
SB Nation site: Red Reporter
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching matchup: RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-17, 4.61 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (11-13, 4.48 ERA)

Game 3 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Bauer 213 27.80% 9.00% 4.34 3.3
Turnbull 148.1 22.30% 9.00% 3.99 2.9

Don’t let the beat writers fool you, Spencer Turnbull was the Tigers’ best rookie in 2019. Harold Castro’s shiny batting average makes him a useful utility player, albeit, a frustrating one at times. On the other hand, every time Turnbull takes the mound, he brings with him the chance to shut down the opposing offense. Of course, his command is sometimes an issue and it makes him a mercurial pitcher. Thankfully for Detroit, Bauer hasn’t exactly been the model of consistency, either.

Some of the blame for Bauer’s dip in performance after his stellar 2018 season can be blamed on a stress fracture he suffered in his right leg. However, that speed bump wasn’t the only obstacle he has to conquer this season to get back to his former ace status. FanGraphs’ Alex Chamberlain explained in extraordinary detail how his cutter and slider, the pitches the fueled his former successes, took a dramatic drop in effectiveness last season. If a bounce-back season is in the cards, it will be thanks to a renaissance in the quality of his breaking balls.

Key Matchup: Turnbull vs. himself

The Tigers offense isn’t as potent as the unit they fielded years ago, but it is certainly an upgrade over what we’ve seen from the team in recent years. The Reds have a quality pitching staff, but as we saw in Saturday’s matchup, the Tigers are capable of overcoming that hurdle — especially after the starter is out of the game. It becomes much more difficult to imagine a scenario where Detroit comes away with a win if Turnbull can’t at least match Bauer’s pitching performance. He needs to bring his best stuff and stay in command of it, or things could get ugly fast.

Prediction: Turnbull carries his momentum into this game but the bullpen drops a stinker and the offense can’t overcome the deficit, granting the Reds a winning record.