Detroit Tigers (73-84) at Texas Rangers (85-72)
Time/Place: 8:05 p.m., Globe Life Park
SB Nation blog: Lone Star Ball
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matt Boyd (1-5, 6.91 ERA) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (12-11, 3.42 ERA)
Yovani Gallardo has had a solid season for the Rangers, but fans of their club can't be too optimistic about their chances in a must-win game with him on the mound right now. Gallardo's ERA is over a half run better than his FIP, and his 15.1 percent strikeout rate is by far the worst of his career. To make matters worse, Gallardo has struggled even more in the second half, allowing a 4.80 ERA in 13 starts. Opponents are hitting .315/.378/.515 off him since the All-Star break, and he has not worked an outing longer than six innings.
Fortunately for Texas, the strategy is working. Despite receiving some of the lowest run support in the American League, Gallardo has steered the Rangers to an 18-14 record in his 32 starts this year. Manager Jeff Banister is limiting the damage by pulling Gallardo early, well before he has to navigate through an opposing lineup for the third time. Opponents are hitting .291/.351/.465 the third time through the order, but in only 188 plate appearances (compared to 287 the first time through). With a middle relief core that is quickly rounding into shape as one of the best in the league, Texas can stomach a five-inning outing from their No. 3 starter.
Like Daniel Norris on Tuesday night, Matt Boyd was the victim of some shoddy Tigers defense in his last start. The Tigers committed three errors as Boyd allowed four runs (two earned) in six innings. The kicker? Boyd only allowed one hit, a triple to deep center field from Eddie Rosario. He wasn't entirely blameless, walking four batters, but another out or two turned behind him could have made for a much different outing. Since only lasting one inning against the Kansas City Royals on September 3, Boyd has held opponents to a 3.71 ERA in 17 innings. He has 15 strikeouts and just two home runs allowed in that short stretch.
Tigers hitter to fear: Miguel Cabrera (.667/.667/.833 in 6 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: J.D. Martinez (.167/.167/.167 in 12 plate appearances)
Gallardo held the Tigers in check earlier this season, scattering eight hits across six shutout innings. It was Gallardo's first appearance against Detroit since 2009, a major reason why very few hitters on the Tigers' roster have faced him before. In limited action, Tigers hitters are batting .289 with a 319 on-base percentage against him. Miguel Cabrera has four of the 13 total hits, while Nick Castellanos added a pair of base hits in their matchup on August 22.
Key matchup: Matt Boyd vs. hitters ballparks
Matt Boyd is an extreme fly ball pitcher, probably more so than we have credited him for previously. His 50.9 percent fly ball rate would rank third-highest among qualified MLB pitchers this season, while his 0.65 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio would be the fourth-lowest. This, coupled with a slightly elevated home run rate, has led to some really bad outings, both before and after he was traded in July.
In particular, Boyd has struggled in small ballparks. His ERA in three starts at the Rogers Centre in Toronto is an unsightly 11.37, and he allowed five runs (including two home runs) in a start at Houston's Minute Maid Park. Meanwhile, he has a 3.30 ERA and 0.93 WHIP at Comerica Park. The home numbers are very encouraging for a pitcher who could be the Tigers' fifth starter next season, but he will need to learn to pitch under more confined conditions if he is going to be an effective rotation piece in 2016.
Better defense? Hopefully? And another Tigers loss.