In the midst of a 12 games in 10 days, the Detroit Tigers make a brief stop at home for a two-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers. The two clubs are in very similar situations, holding the same record and trying to run down a wild card spot from outside the current playoff picture. The pitching matchup is also familiar, as this will be a rematch of the September 2nd matchup between Spencer Turnbull and Adrian Houser.
That game did not go too well for Turnbull, nor the Tigers, who lost by a score of 8-5.
The big right-hander remains an enigma. He’s been the club’s most consistent starting pitcher, though that comes to faint praise considering the rotation’s struggles. When he’s on, Turnbull can be absolutely dominant with his distinct pair of fastballs and a nasty slider. But when he isn’t, he has no idea where the ball is going and the walks and runs start piling up quickly.
The result is a pitcher who remains more of a backend type arm, not because of consistency, but because his lows still counter the highs too effectively. If Turnbull could just split the difference between his dominant outings and his terrible ones down the stretch, we would take it happily and say thank you.
Detroit Tigers (18-21) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (18-21)
Time/Place: 7:10 pm, Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Brew Crew Ball
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: Spencer Turnbull (3-2, 3.89 ERA) vs. Adrian Houser (1-3, 4.97 ERA)
Game 40 Pitching Matchup
Like Turnbull, right-hander Adrian Houser makes his money on the ground. His 64 percent groundball rate is the key to his success. Houser doesn’t strike out too many, and he’s vulnerable to the long ball, but he doesn’t give out free passes and with decent batted ball luck he can make good offenses look mediocre for long stretches.
As he did in his last start against the Tigers, Houser will lean heavily on his 94 mile per hour sinker. He’ll mix in a fourseamer up and inside to spice things up, but his entire approach is based on pounding sinkers and keeping contact on the ground. He will use a changeup, curveball, and slider, but all of those pitches are average at best. He’ll mix each of them in 10-12 percent of the time, but the Tigers would do best to focus on the sinker early in counts. If he gets ahead, Houser will fish around the edges of the zone with good command with his secondary pitches, but he also can’t afford to make mistakes with those offerings.
Back on September 2nd, the Tigers got to Houser for five runs through five innings, and had the lead before Turnbull and the bullpen came unglued. Willi Castro had the hottest hand, collecting three hits and two RBI. Jeimer Candelario and Jorge Bonifacio also keyed the offense a bit and should be in the lineup again tonight in Detroit.
Key Matchup: Spencer Turnbull vs. himself
This is fairly simple. The offense has remained productive of late, but the bullpen is starting to wear thin. The Tigers really need Turnbull to throw strikes, work relatively efficiently, and get them six solid innings of work. If he does, we like their chances of beating up on Houser. If Turnbull is wild again and gets knocked out early? Yeah the Tigers may be in for a very long night.
The Brewers offense may be catching fire a bit, but they still have been one of the worst run scoring teams in the league. Their strikeout rate is almost as bad as the Tigers’ league-worst mark of 27.1 percent. Turnbull has four rocky outings in a row under his belt. Look for his comfort factor to be fairly high back in spacious Comerica Park and help him produce a quality start and a Tigers victory.