Detroit Tigers (61-71) at Kansas City Royals (81-51)
Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation blog: Royals Review
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matt Boyd (1-5, 7.12 ERA) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (12-7, 3.27 ERA)
Royals manager Ned Yost has spent most of the 2015 season doing his best Sparky Anderson impression with his starting pitchers, pulling them from the game at the first sign of trouble. This strategy looks much better when backed by the American League's best bullpen, and with the team 30 games above .500, it's hard to argue against Yost's reasoning.
Oddly enough, Yost didn't utilize that strategy the last time Edinson Volquez faced off against the Tigers on August 12. Entering the eighth inning with a 4-2 lead, Volquez allowed all four batters he faced to reach base. Only then was Volquez pulled, but the Tigers offense was able to tack on the runs they needed to steal a 7-4 victory.
While this is largely a critique of one incident Yost screwed up, it also points out one of the more glaring weaknesses in Volquez's game. The 32-year-old righthander has put up excellent numbers this season with the Royals defense behind him, but has often failed to work deep into games. He is averaging just over six innings per start and has crossed the 110-pitch threshold just three times. The first two times through the order, teams are batting .222/.289/.334 against Volquez, a .623 OPS. The third time and beyond? That figure jumps to a .753 OPS.
After Matt Boyd's first start with the Tigers -- a solid seven-inning performance against these same Royals, no less -- he walked off the field to a standing ovation at Comerica Park and told reporters that it "felt like home." A return to his former home did not go well, as Boyd allowed five runs on seven hits against the Toronto Blue Jays in his last start. All five runs came via three home runs, upping Boyd's season-long total to 11 dingers allowed. On the bright side, eight of those 11 home runs have come at the Rogers Centre. He hasn't had many major league starts in true pitcher's parks, but given his numbers at Comerica Park and in his last outing at Kauffman Stadium, large outfields seem to serve him well.
Tigers hitter to fear: Ian Kinsler (.385/.385/.462 in 13 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Victor Martinez (.083/.071/.083 in 14 plate appearances)
The Tigers have scored seven runs in 13 innings and won both of their matchups against Volquez this season, but the underlying numbers are a bit puzzling. They only have 13 hits against him this season, and are batting .260/.321/.320 as a team. This continues a roster-wide trend, as current Tigers players have a career .224 average and .299 on-base percentage against Volquez. Ian Kinsler and Anthony Gose have fared well, with eight hits in 19 combined at-bats.
Matt Boyd Shutdown Watch Level: Mustard
There has been talk that the Tigers will be looking to limit Matt Boyd's innings down the stretch, and for good reason. Between the minor and major leagues, Boyd has thrown 151 1/3 innings this season, and still has upwards of six starts remaining if the Tigers stick with a five-man rotation down the stretch. This could mean another 30 innings for Boyd, who is already 18 innings clear of his 2014 innings total. The Tigers have hinted at using a six-man rotation, but might be mixing up an already battered rotation after using Buck Farmer in relief on Tuesday.
Brad Ausmus said Buck Farmer was moved to the bullpen prior to the game tonight. Friday starter announced tomorrow.— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) September 3, 2015
Matt Boyd has had two very different outings against the Royals already this season. He wasn't beaten up too badly in the latter thanks to a savvy adjustment he and catcher Alex Avila made, but the Royals were able to score three key runs off him before he buckled down. It will be interesting to see how Boyd attacks the Royals' hitters tonight. He used a fastball-heavy approach to generate a boatload of weak fly balls in their first meeting, but had to rely on his secondary stuff in their next matchup. Given the Royals' free-swinging ways, the latter approach may have better luck this time around, but Kansas City didn't seem to have any trouble with Randy Wolf's loopy arsenal in Wednesday's game.
Volquez and the Royals bullpen take care of business, and the Tigers lose a low-scoring game.
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