If we're keeping score, Mother Nature did the Tigers a solid in 2016. Fans were originally going to be treated to a Masahiro Tanaka-Justin Verlander matchup in April, but a rainout pushed the early season ace-off back by nearly two months. And instead of facing the unbeaten Tanaka, the Tigers are now matched up against Michael Pineda, he of the 6.92 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 2016.
While one might be inclined to say the Yankees received a similar break with Verlander's start was washed out, the difference between he and Thursday starter Matt Boyd probably isn't as large as the gulf between Tanaka and Pineda. For one, Boyd has been dominant in the minor leagues, limiting opponents to a 2.06 ERA and 3.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was sharp in his first major league start of the season as well, striking out seven A's hitters in five innings of work.
Boyd also represents a potential nightmare matchup for the Yankees, who rely on a number of left-handed hitters in their everyday lineup. Making matters worse, the righties they do have on their roster have performed poorly this year, with both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira (a switch-hitter) batting under .200. As such, the Yankees are hitting an abysmal .229/.288/.335 against left-handed starting pitchers this season. They rank second-to-last in runs scored per game among American League teams, and have hit just 52 home runs as a club.
Will Boyd be the next lefty to give the Yankees trouble? Or can the Bronx Bombers break out against an inexperienced starter?
New York Yankees (24-28) at Detroit Tigers (25-27)
Time/Place: 7:40 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Pinstripe Alley
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Pineda (2-6, 6.92 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Boyd (0-0, 2.79 ERA)
Health has been a major issue throughout Michael Pineda's career, but it seemed like he and the Yankees found a winning combination in 2015. Pineda made 27 starts last season, his highest total at any level since 2011, and was able to log 160 2/3 innings with a 4.37 ERA. While this ranked slightly below average (in terms of ERA+), there was plenty of reason to believe 2016 would be somewhat of a breakout season. For one, Pineda's injury history makes him a "young" 27 due to lost development time earlier in his career.
Pineda also had moments of brilliance throughout the 2015 season, including a 16-strikeout performance against the Baltimore Orioles, that had many wondering if he could ever fully regain the 2011 form that originally made him such an attractive trade piece. He posted a phenomenal 7.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season, resulting in a 3.34 FIP on par with that excellent rookie year. His 3.4 fWAR was a career best, and a bit more BABIP luck could have potentially brought the ERA down to a similar level.
Instead, things fell apart, even if Pineda himself did not. He has allowed five runs or more in five of his 10 starts this season, and he is allowing more than 12 hits per nine innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has been halved, in large part thanks to a walk rate double what he managed in 2015. He has allowed 11 home runs, though seven of them came in two unfortunate outings in April (and all but one at home). While the result has been a FIP nearly two runs below his ERA, there isn't much reason to believe the supposed breakout is on its way.
A lot of weird stuff tends to happen on the west coast, which is why I would not put too much stock into the Tigers' recent 2-4 skid against AL West also-rans. However, the travel may be worth a mention. The Tigers typically have a day off after most west coast trips in order to get acclimated to the Eastern time zone, but won't be afforded that luxury this week. The odd start time and quick turnaround after a long flight home may wreak havoc on their chances in this game, even against a starter struggling as much as Pineda right now. If the offense can manage some runs, they have a good shot of sweeping their brief one-game series.
Boyd and the bullpen make an early lead stand up for a Tigers win.
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