Kansas City Royals (63-42) at Detroit Tigers (51-55)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Royals Review
Pitching Matchup: RHP Johnny Cueto (7-6, 2.70 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Boyd (0-2, 14.85 ERA)
If anyone was worried about Johnny Cueto's ability to transition to the American League after pitching in the Senior Circuit for the better part of eight season, he all but put those doubts to bed in his Royals debut. Cueto held the Toronto Blue Jays, who own baseball's best offense, to three runs in six innings in their home ballpark, where they are scoring 5.6 runs per game. Cueto struck out seven and walked two, but an uncharacteristic blown lead by the Royals bullpen cost Cueto his first win with Kansas City.
Wins were hard to come by for Cueto in Cincinnati this season, where he put up a 2.62 ERA and 3.15 FIP in 130 2/3 innings. He compiled a 4.14 strikeout-to-walk ratio while holding opponents to a .193 batting average, third-lowest in all of baseball. His .243 BABIP seems low at first glance, but this is what Cueto does. He posted a .238 BABIP in 243 2/3 innings last season, and has been under the .250 mark in four of the past five seasons (including 2015). Cueto doesn't get an inordinate number of ground or fly balls, instead relying on a diverse arsenal and the occasional shimmy during his delivery to throw off his opponents' timing at the plate.
His numbers look awful, but Matt Boyd's MLB debut on June 27 was a relatively successful outing. He allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Texas Rangers, but took the loss when Yovani Gallardo scattered three hits across 8 1/3 innings. Boyd struck out seven and did not walk a batter, but was victimized by three home runs in Toronto's launchpad environment. Five days later, Boyd did not record an out against the Boston Red Sox, who scored seven runs on six hits. Hence, the awful numbers.
Aside from those two outings, Boyd has spent his entire season in the minor leagues. He held opponents to a 1.10 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in 73 2/3 Double-A innings, earning a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo. There, Boyd allowed a 2.77 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in six starts. His command has been impeccable at both stops, with just 24 walks in 112 2/3 combined innings. Even after walking three of the nine batters he faced in his Toledo Mud Hens debut on Saturday, Boyd has a 4.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Triple-A ball this season.
Tigers hitter to fear: Ian Kinsler (.333/.500/.667 in 4 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Victor Martinez (.000/.143/.000 in 7 plate appearances)
The Tigers haven't seen much of Cueto in his career given his history in the National League, but they did get a glimpse of the Royals' new ace in June. Cueto and David Price went head-to-head in that matchup, and the Tigers scored three runs in 5 1/3 innings -- all on a Miguel Cabrera home run -- before a well-timed rain delay knocked Cueto out of the game. No one else in the Tigers lineup has had much success against him, though. They are 2-for-23 as a group with one double and four walks.
In order for Boyd to be successful tonight, he has to keep the ball low in the strike zone. He has not induced a high number of ground balls in the minor leagues, instead skewing more towards a heavy fly ball distribution. However, based on the data available from his very short major league stint earlier this year, it seems that Boyd's pitches become far more hittable when up in the strike zone (a la Shane Greene, a comparison that should give you plenty of confidence this morning). If Boyd can locate his fastball down and, ideally, to either side of the plate, he could give Cueto and the Royals fits for a while.
Cueto cruises and the Royals take their second in a row.
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