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Game 138 Preview: Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers

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Rays starter Erasmo Ramirez has found new life in Tampa, posting a 10-5 record in 22 starts in 2015.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Rays (67-70) at Detroit Tigers (63-74)

Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: DRaysBay

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Erasmo Ramirez (10-5, 3.84 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Boyd (1-5, 8.36 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Ramirez 22 131.1 6.72 2.54 0.96 1.16 4.09 4.10 1.4
Boyd 8 37.2 6.21 2.87 2.87 1.83 6.94 4.93 -0.6

The Rays have been doing this for years, but their ability to find solid (or better) pitchers that others have discarded is incredible. Their latest example is 25-year-old Erasmo Ramirez, who was coming off a pair of lackluster seasons with the Seattle Mariners before he was traded to Tampa at the tail end of spring training this year. His first two outings were brutal -- one quarter of the earned runs he has allowed this season came in those two appearances -- but he has a 2.93 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 126 innings since then.

Usually, an improvement this large would be represented in a substantial change in philosophy or pitching arsenal. Ramirez has used his fastball slightly more, but is otherwise the same pitcher who the Mariners gave up on. Tampa has unlocked the Ramirez who posted a 3.26 ERA in seven minor league seasons, in part thanks to a major drop in his walk rate. Ramirez has walked 6.8 percent of the batters he has faced this season, a figure that drops closer to six percent if you remove his first two outings of the year. His strikeout rate hasn't budged, but Ramirez is inducing ground balls at a career-high 47.3 percent clip.

On last week's podcast, I attributed a lot of the blame for Matt Boyd's poor start against the Blue Jays to the Rogers Centre. The pitcher-friendly ballpark has not been kind to Boyd, who has allowed eight home runs in 12 2/3 innings there this season. Moving to a more spacious park did not help, though he was facing the Kansas City Royals for the third time inside a month. Facing a new team could help, and Boyd has pitched fairly well at Comerica Park in two starts. He will need to be better all around, but he has struggled quite a bit against lefties, with a 1.212 OPS allowed.

Hitter to fear: Andrew Romine (1.000/1.000/1.000 in 2 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Rajai Davis (.000/.000/.000 in 3 plate appearances)

The Tigers have never faced Ramirez as a starter, though the young righthander has made 57 starts in his brief career. He has faced several of the Tigers' hitters before, including Ian Kinsler, who has a double in five plate appearances. Andrew Romine has had the most luck, collecting a pair of base hits in two plate appearances.

Outlook

Thanks to an excellent changeup, Ramirez has displayed some pretty significant reverse splits this season. Lefties are batting .193 with a .264 on-base percentage, while righties are hitting a comfortable .281 and getting on base at a .340 clip. Opponents are batting .143 with a .185 slugging average off Ramirez's changeup, while his slider (a pitch he throws more often against righties) is getting tattooed for a .294 average and .618 (!) slugging average. With Boyd struggling to get back on track late in the season, they may need plenty of early offense against Ramirez.

Prediction

The Rays win a high-scoring affair.

★★★

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is running a $1,000,000 fantasy football league for week 1. It's $5 to enter and first place wins $100,000. Click here to join.