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Tigers vs. Reds Preview: This feels a little too familiar

Detroit will again face the loaded Reds rotation.

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

Even in a season with a heavy dosage of interleague play, it still seems a little strange to be playing the same National League team just one week later, but that is how 2020 is going to be. After stealing two of three from the Reds in Cincinnati, the Detroit Tigers host the Redlegs for a three-game set at Comerica Park starting on Friday.

The Tigers enter their third series of the year having won the first before splitting with Kansas City. Just about everything has been a surprise so far: the record, the number of homers, the effectiveness of the bullpen. It is still early in the year, but in a shortened season, it just takes some luck to be competitive.

To keep up with a rotation as good as the Reds’, the Tigers will have to produce some quality outings of their own. That responsibility will fall first on Spencer Turnbull, who had a nice outing to start the year, allowing just three hits and one run over five innings. This was an encouraging sign after he stumbled through the second half of 2019, positing a 6.60 ERA over that stretch.

Turnbull’s breakout season was fueled by the effectiveness of his secondary pitches, which led to a decent 8.86 K/9. In five innings against the Reds, the 27-year-old logged eight punch outs, perhaps an indicator of more good things to come. Facing the same lineup just five days later is not a straightforward task, so this start could be a good barometer of how this season might play out for the righthander.

Cincinnati Reds (2-4) at Detroit Tigers (4-3)

Time/Place: 7:10 pm, Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Red Reporter
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Probables: RHP Luis Castillo (0-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (0-0, 1.80 ERA)

Game 8 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Castillo 6.0 44.0 4.0 -0.10 0.5
Turnbull 5.0 36.4 18.2 2.27 0.2

Luis Castillo did just about everything asked of him in his first start of the season. After a C.J. Cron RBI-double in the first inning, the hard-throwing starter was locked in against the Tigers last Saturday. In six innings of work he allowed just the one run while striking out 11 batters. With his talent and pitch mix, there is likely to be a bunch of swings and misses again tonight.

Castillo was solid last season, posting a 3.40 ERA and 3.70 FIP while recording 10.7 K/9. He was near 98 mph with his fastball in his first start of 2020 and is going to be a tough matchup for a lineup that has some contact issues. Though the Tigers have shown some good power to start the year, Castillo has limited homers throughout his career. Detroit’s best bet might be getting to the Reds bullpen again.

Key matchup: Turnbull vs. a familiar opponent

Last Sunday was Turnbull’s first start against the Reds, and he clearly had the upper hand. Now that Cincinnati has had a chance to see him, it becomes much harder to replicate this performance. Additionally, the lineup may now feature Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel, neither of whom were able to play during his first start.

Turnbull looked very good, so this is not to say that he will completely fall apart Friday, but it is definitely something to watch. If he can find a way to keep hitters off balance and continue to rack up the punch outs, the Tigers will have to feel very good about him going forward, especially in a shortened season where he is less likely to fade down the stretch.