All was well in Motown as the calendar flipped over to September, with the Tigers taking the first game of a two-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night in a whopping 12-1 victory on the road. With the win, Detroit sat above the .500 mark for the first time this late in the season since 2016. Sure, it has been a weird year to say the least, but you cannot say the winning is not fun.
However, the win in Milwaukee might have been a bit Pyrrhic, as outfielder JaCoby Jones was knocked out for the season after he was struck in the hand by a pitch in the eighth inning, resulting in a fractured bone in his left hand. Former first round draft pick Derek Hill, a celeritous center fielder with a nifty glove, was called up to take his place on the roster. Even though Jones had cooled off a bit since his white-hot start, Hill is not expected to fill the offensive void left he leaves behind, but merely serve as a fifth outfielder and provide some speed on the basepaths.
Nonetheless, hopefully tonight Hill gets his major league debut in the starting lineup and not as a late-inning defensive replacement, as starter Spencer Turnbull can use all the help he can get behind him to push the winning streak to five straight games.
Detroit Tigers (17-16) at Milwaukee Brewers (16-19)
Time/Place: 7:40 pm, Miller Park
SB Nation site: Brew Crew Ball
Probables: RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-2, 2.97 ERA) vs. RHP Adrian Houser (1-3, 4.36 ERA)
Game 34 Pitching Matchup
Adrian Houser finally got a full major league season in 2019 and he did not disappoint. The 27-year-old pitched 111 1⁄3 innings between the rotation and the bullpen and ended with a solid 3.72 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. This landed him in the Brewers rotation to start 2020 with hopes of an encore performance.
The results so far have been disappointing. After just one run allowed in his first two starts (12 total innings), Houser has given up at least three runs in each of his last four appearances, with his latest outing lasting just four innings with four runs and two homers allowed. The overall line may not be a disaster, but it definitely is a step back from last year.
Houser is just not missing as many bats this season, with his strikeout rate falling from 9.46 strikeouts per nine innings to 6.55. While walks are steady and homers are just slightly up, hitters seem just a little more able to square him up, as evidenced by a higher barrel rate and better contact numbers. Even over the recent hot stretch, the Tigers offense has been just about league-average. Houser will hope to get back to his strikeout ways against a team that is very willing to swing the bat.
Key matchup: Turnbull vs. Brewers’ batters
Spencer Turnbull comes into the game as the de facto ace of the Tigers’ rotation, having taken a step forward from his often encouraging but also frustrating freshman campaign. Thus far this season, he has found success dialing things back a little and working more on pitching than just throwing the ball hard, and the results have been quite good. Meanwhile, the Brew Crew strike out more than any other team with 345 Ks, and are second-worse in the league in batting average (.215), 26th in runs scored (136) and 25th in stolen bases (10); they do rank 12th in walks (123) for their one bright spot at the plate. But simply put, this is not a good offensive team.
So why is this the key matchup? This is a game that Turnbull should dominate on paper if he can minimize his walks. And if he does, the Tigers should be able to put a few crooked numbers on the board for him against Houser and extend their winning streak to five straight games. But if he struggles with his command and ends up wasting too many pitches, anything can happen against a bullpen that has done surprisingly well, but has also been overtaxed in 2020.