Matt Boyd shined unexpectedly in his last start before the All-Star Break, holding the Toronto Blue Jays to just a run on four hits and striking out six in five innings of work. Doing this against a lineup that he flirted with disaster with a month ago is a very positive sign for a pitcher who was getting rocked in early June. Despite an ugly season-long ERA of 5.77, Boyd has shown at times that he is capable of being the number six starter Detroit wants him to be.
Let’s hope we get that Boyd again, because Daniel Norris and Jordan Zimmermann are both still on the Disabled List. If either one of them is out for much longer, Boyd’s going to be a fixture in the rotation for that stretch (unless Detroit sends him down and starts Sanchez, at which point I quit). The Tigers held him, wisely, to start off the series at home against the offensively inept Twins.
Can Boyd keep the Twins in check long enough to deliver an opening win?
Minnesota Twins (33-58) at Detroit Tigers (48-44)
Time/Place: Comerica Park, 7:10 p.m.
SB Nation Blog: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Ricky Nolasco (4-7, 5.22 ERA) vs LHP Matt Boyd (0-2, 5.77 ERA)
Ricky Nolasco is one of those people who gets a four-year deal and you just know it won’t end well. His ERA sits at 5.22 so far in 2016, and that’s the best it’s been since he joined the team in 2014. His FIP sits a full run lower than his ERA, which suggests improvement, but Nolasco is one of those people who refuses to pitch as well as his peripherals. Despite the fact that he has an entirely respectable 3.83 career FIP, his career ERA is much higher at 4.58. This isn’t over a small sample either: Nolasco has made 265 career starts.
Looking further at the data, it’s clear to see why he fails to live up to his fielding-independent stats. Nolasco has posted a career BABIP of .315, and that number sits at .330 this year. Surely, that’s a partial byproduct of being on a terrible Minnesota team with some terrible defense -- Oswaldo Arcia was basically Steven Moya before he was designated for assignment, and Trevor Plouffe is 2014 Nick Castellanos -- but Nolasco is also doing himself no favors. Over 34 percent of balls hit off of him this year have been classified as hard-hit, a career high.
Nolasco has made one start this year against Detroit, and it was going pretty well until Nick Castellanos got him for a three-run homer en route to a Tigers win. Nolasco has allowed less than three runs in a start just four times all season, and just twice since the start of May.
Tigers hitter to fear: Mike Aviles (.571/.571/.857 in 14 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Mike Pelfrey (.000/.000/.000 in 6 plate appearances)
Yeah, this could be a really long day for Nolasco. There’s a pretty long list of hitters with an OPS over 1.000 against him: Aviles, Cameron Maybin (1.464), Jose Iglesias (1.339), Victor Martinez (1.231), and Nick Castellanos (1.107). Meanwhile, Ian Kinsler is only hitting .391 against him, Justin Upton is lagging at .350, and Miguel Cabrera is struggling along to a .313 batting average in his career.
Just don’t pinch-hit Pelfrey, I guess.
Michael Fulmer did the Detroit bullpen a solid by giving everyone except Francisco Rodriguez the day off yesterday to recuperate. That should be key, as Boyd has shown that he struggles to pitch deep into games. Guys like Alex Wilson and Bruce Rondon should be ready to go in the middle innings. Manager Brad Ausmus has shown a tendency to pull starters with stamina issues too late, especially when the offense gives run support to work with. It would be ideal not to see that today, when runs may be coming in bunches.
The Tigers nearly blow a big lead in the middle innings, but the back end of the bullpen locks down a series-opening win.