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Game 98 Preview: Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox

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Matt Boyd looks to clinch the series win against Chris Sale in Chicago.

Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

In the absence of Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris, a surprising name has solidified the rotation behind Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer. It’s fair to call Matt Boyd the Tigers’ number three starter right now, a statement that a month ago would have sounded the death knell to the 2016 season. Boyd has a surprising 2.91 K/BB ratio as a starter (he has one relief appearance on the year), and his 13.6 K-BB% is just a hair behind Fulmer’s for second on the team. His starting ERA is still rather unsightly at 5.55, his FIP is 4.18 and his SIERA is 4.25.

Even more impressive has been his last two starts since being recalled from Triple-A Toledo. Boyd has allowed just one run over 11 innings in that span while striking out 13 and walking just three. He managed to chase the demons haunting his middle innings in his last start by mowing down the Minnesota Twins lineup in the sixth.

Now Boyd gets to face a White Sox lineup that has been better against lefties than righties. It’s still not a good lineup, but their tiny ballpark may give Boyd some troubles as he has had home run issues in the past. Even more formidable than the park is the young starter’s opponent- Chris Sale.

Detroit Tigers (51-46) at Chicago White Sox (46-50)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matt Boyd (1-2, 4.91 ERA) vs. LHP Chris Sale (14-3, 3.18 ERA)

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Boyd 40.1 19.8 8.1 4.18 0.6
Sale 133 24.5 5.5 3.69 2.7

There isn’t a whole lot left to say about Chris Sale that hasn’t already been said. He’s a perennial Cy Young candidate and a destroyer of lefties. He’s only lost three of his 19 starts this year, and one was to Mike Pelfrey because baseball is weird. There are some signs that Sale has declined somewhat this year with his strikeout rate declining from 32.1 percent to 24.5 percent, but that’s like dropping off from 2012 Justin Verlander to 2013 Justin Verlander. The end result is still pretty great.

Surprisingly enough, lefties have managed four home runs off of him this year. That doesn’t seem like a lot until one considers that going into the year, lefties had only taken him deep three times. And because baseball is weird, Brennan Boesch had two of those three dingers.

The Tigers have actually gotten to Sale in their two meetings this year, roughing him up for seven runs in 13.1 innings of work. They’ll likely need to do more of the same today to guarantee a road series win.

Tigers hitter to fear: Victor Martinez (.500/.537/.917 in 51 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Nick Castellanos (.091/.125/.091 in 24 plate appearances)

Martinez has owned Sale over his career, taking him deep four times with the questionable aid of binoculars. Meanwhile, Sale has struck out Castellanos 10 times while the third baseman owns just two singles and a walk to his name. It might not be a bad night to give Andrew Romine a start at third. Meanwhile, Jose Abreu has a three-run home run in three plate appearances against Boyd.

Outlook

This doesn’t look too good. Boyd has been better lately, but pitching in a small ballpark will turn a flyball pitcher’s day into a massive game of Russian roulette. He’ll have to keep the ball in on the hands of hitters if he chooses to go up in the zone, something Boyd did a very good job of against Minnesota.

And it still might not matter. Because Chris Sale is really good at baseball.

Prediction

Kinsler homers for Detroit’s only run in a loss, but it’s worth it when he makes binoculars all the way around the bases.