The Detroit Tigers’ season has, to this point, been rescued by their young starting pitching. Players expected to develop as depth, most particularly Michael Fulmer, have instead stepped up and contributed in a big way to the Tigers’ season. Matt Boyd has done his share to keep the Tigers’ hopes afloat as well. He'll have a lot on his shoulders as the Tigers fight to end a five-game skid.
Boyd was the odd man out in spring training. The trio of Norris, Greene and Fulmer were the prized assets. Boyd was the guy with some potential, but who was the de facto—pitcher to be traded in some wild Dombrowskian scheme—of many up to the trade deadline.
Yet since the All-Star break, the left-hander has seemed to settle into a role in the back of the rotation, and at times, has handled some lesser offenses quite well. Even when he’s taken some blows he’s managed to give the Tigers decent outings, particularly by the standards in the American League this season.
Since the All-Star break, Boyd has a nifty 2.95 ERA over four starts and one relief appearance. His 4.10 FIP is a better predictor however. Boyd continues to give up far too many home runs, but of late, they’ve been solo shots. He’ll need to mix things up with good command of his whole array of pitches to handle the Rangers in their launching pad.
Detroit Tigers (61-54) at Texas Rangers (69-48)
Time/Place: 8:05 p.m. ET, Globe Life Park
SB Nation blog: Lone Star Ball
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matt Boyd (3-2, 4.69 ERA) vs. Cole Hamels (12-3, 2.89 ERA)
The banged up Tigers' offense is going to have another tough go of it Saturday evening. They’ll take on Cole Hamels, who has carried the heaviest load for a struggling Rangers' rotation. During the first half, Hamels benefited a lot from his defense, and was plagued by the long ball, particularly during April and May. His peripherals painted a picture of a good pitcher struggling a with his command and yet avoiding the big inning. His 2.64 FIP in the second half illustrates that he’s really been on a different level since the All-Star game.
One of the subtle reasons Hamels is making a strong second half push may have to do with his velocity. Just as he has the past few seasons, the left-hander has added at least a tick to every one of his pitches as the season has progressed. Currently he’s sitting around 94 mph with good life on his fourseam fastball.
In his recent starts Hamels has leaned on his fastball, cutter and changeup in pretty equal measures. While the fastball is sometimes vulnerable, the cutter and changeup typically eat hitters up. He’ll also break out a fine 12-to-6 curveball as a change of pace. Hamels strikes out his share of batters, but will also hand out quite a few free passes.
Hitter to Fear: Adrian Beltre (.429/.429/1.000 in seven plate appearances)
Hitter to Fail: Shin-Soo Choo (.143/.333/.143 in seven plate appearances )
Matt Boyd is already 0-3 against the Rangers in his brief career. They've posted an OPS of 1.065 against the Tigers' left-hander in three starts. Boyd has held his own recently, but we're still at a point where teams haven't gotten a read on him yet. The Rangers are a good bet to be the team that is better prepared than others to implement a good approach and challenge him to consistently make good pitches. The mistakes are likely to get hammered. Boyd will need excellent command and a good feel for both his slider and changeup to hold a deep Rangers lineup in check.
We're not at a point where too much can be expected from Matt Boyd in this scenario. The Rangers looked primed to come down to Earth for most of the season, but they made big moves at the trade deadline in acquiring Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy. This is now a very dangerous offense. Yet they haven't seen the version of Boyd we've seen take the mound recently. Boyd needs that good changeup to manage the right-handers in the Rangers' lineup. If he has it, he should be able to keep the Tigers in this one. Just hope Brad Ausmus goes to the bullpen before Boyd forces him too.
We've already seen several points were it felt like the walls were closing in around the Tigers this season. Saturday night, the big bats break out and stave off the doom again.