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Detroit vs. Minnesota Preview: Tigers seek to bounce back after Sunday’s bullpen implosion

The Tigers may have won their first series, but the Twins won theirs, as well.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

From the beginning of the 2019 season, it took until the summer of 2020 for the Detroit Tigers to notch two wins against the Cleveland Baseball Team. This year, it took an entire two days. Detroit had a prime opportunity to make that three wins in three days, but the Tigers blew a 3-1 lead entering the 6th inning on Sunday, surrendering one run or more during each of the final four frames of the game.

Today, your Detroit Tigers take on another divisional rival in the Minnesota Twins. Both teams will send 2021 bounce back candidates to the mound in this one, and both teams will hope that their starter does not replicate their woes during the abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Detroit Tigers (2-1) vs. Minnesota Twins (2-1)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m. EDT, Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP José Ureña (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs RHP Matt Shoemaker (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Game 4 Pitching Matchup (2020 Stats)

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Ureña 23.1 14.4 12.5 6.06 -0.1
Shoemaker 28.2 22.6 7.8 5.95 1.2

This year’s Twins team may not be your 2019 Bomba Squad, but their lineup has a few notable faces. First and foremost, patented Detroit Tigers killer Nelson Cruz, who will turn 41 on July 1, will make his first start of the year after sitting during an interleague series at Milwaukee (Cruz did not play the field at all last year in Minnesota, and it appears he is unlikely to this year, as well). The bulk and the heart of the Twins lineup, outside of Cruz, features the homegrown core of this iteration of the Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton, who posted a 1.750 OPS in the team’s opening series, Max Kepler, Miguel Sanó, Jorge Polanco, 23-year-old infielder Luis Arraez, and Mitch Garver. One more notable face in the Twins lineup—sorry, Jake Cave; you’ll probably punish Detroit today for me ignoring you—is defensive wizard shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

Detroit, meanwhile, will hope that their developing young core, including Jeimer Candelario, Willi Castro, and spring training sensation Akil Baddoo, can support free agent signing José Ureña, who will start on the mound today.

To be frank, there isn’t much to be excited about with Ureña. He will turn 30 in September, has only posted one season with an fWAR over half a win in his Major League career—spent entirely with the Miami Marlins to date—and has never struck out 20 percent of hitters in any season (his highest mark was an 18.3% strikeout percentage in 2018, under seven strikeouts per nine innings). He has a nasty power sinker and tends to keep the ball on the ground, but that approach tends to come with plenty of traffic on the bases.

Last year, Ureña struggled through five starts, averaging under five innings per outing and finishing with a poor 5.40 ERA to pair with an even worse 6.06 FIP. At his best, Ureña is a solid #5 pitcher in the rotation. However, he threw the ball well this spring, and is now reunited with Tigers assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves, who was pitching coach in Miami during Ureña’s best years, we’ll hope for solid, workman-like efforts. The defense will need to be sharp behind him.

Key Matchup: Detroit’s power vs. Matt Shoemaker

With a generally unreliable starting pitcher on the mound for Detroit, the onus will fall on Detroit’s lineup to produce a handful of runs and cross their fingers that Ureña can post something along the lines of a quality start.

Matt Shoemaker, on the mound for the Twins, had a similarly poor 2020 to Ureña, finishing with an identical -0.1 fWAR mark to Ureña in a similar small sample size under 30 innings. Shoemaker has had higher highs in his Major League career, specifically during his 2016 campaign (3.5 fWAR in 160 innings), but at 34 years of age and five years removed from his best season, Shoemaker is no ace.

Last season, after allowing fewer than one home run per nine innings during his similarly short and injury-marred 2018 and 2019 campaigns, Shoemaker allowed 2.51 bombs per nine innings in 2020. If the Tigers can capitalize on Shoemaker’s vulnerability to the long ball from last season, this has the potential to be a high-scoring game (or, if Ureña starts the year off strong, a lopsided game). If Shoemaker happens to flash his 2016 form, however, the Twins could make quick work of Detroit. For now, we will cross our fingers and hope that the Tigers move to 3-1 and spend another day atop the American League Central.