If the Detroit Tigers want to make the playoffs, they need to beat teams that are clearly inferior to them. They did exactly that last week against the Minnesota Twins, but they couldn’t manage to take a series from the last place Los Angeles Angels. Now, as they kickoff a three game series against the lowly Chicago White Sox, they need to reestablish their winning ways in order to leap back into a Wild Card spot, and possibly even chase down the Cleveland Indians for AL Central supremacy.
Matt Boyd takes the hill tonight for the Tigers, and he has been riding high since the All-Star break. In 40 1⁄3 innings pitched since, he has a 2.45 ERA and is only allowing an opponents average of .203. Boyd is still allowing too many homers and generating a mere .214 BABIP, so his 4.93 FIP during that span paints a different picture than the traditional numbers. Either way, Boyd has shown an uncanny ability for stranding runners and limiting damage throughout the second half of the season.
Making his third start of the season against the Tigers is James Shields, whose career has spiraled down to the level of metaphorical dumpster fire. His ERA on the season is an atrocious 5.98, but his 5.97 FIP suggests he might be getting marginally unlucky.
Seriously though, the Tigers need to pound this joker tonight.
Chicago White Sox (63-66) at Detroit Tigers (69-61)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP James Shields (5-16 5.98 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Boyd (5-2, 3.98 ERA)
In his first start this season against the Tigers, Shields got shelled in spectacular fashion. Somehow, he managed to make it through five innings, but it wasn’t pretty at all. Actually, it was extremely pretty if you’re a Tigers fan. In his five innings, he gave up six earned runs, walked four batters, allowed nine hits, and served up one lead-off dinger to Ian Kinsler. Still, the Tigers found a way to lose the game as Boyd also allowed six earned runs, and the back end of the bullpen melted down.
In Shields’ second start against Detroit, he was much better, but this time the Tigers were able to complete a win against him. As you may remember, this was the game that got rained out after the top of the seventh inning. Shields was cruising with four scoreless innings, and then allowed home runs to Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera, once again proving to the world that he is in fact not a big game pitcher anymore.
Hitter to fear: Adam freakin’ Eaton (proven Tigers killer)
Hitter to fail: Brett Lawrie (because of his dumb vampire-teeth mouth guard)
One of the most annoying things about playing the White Sox is having to face Adam Eaton. Put plain and simple, he owns the Tigers. For his career, he is 60-for-174 (.345) against them with a .937 OPS and a .399 wOBA. Adam Eaton is the anti-Tigers player. He runs the bases well, plays good defense, and is extremely good at bunting. Every time he steps on a baseball diamond against the Tigers, you just know he’s going to do something that will annoy the pants off of you.
Considering Boyd probably won’t be able to get Eaton out tonight — because, let’s face it, no Tigers are — he will have to navigate through the rest of Chicago’s lineup. Jose Abreu isn’t the force he was when he immediately made his transition to Major League Baseball in 2014, and Todd Frazier has turned into the second coming of Adam Dunn, but with a little bit of defense at third base. Brett Lawrie still looks like an asshole, and Tim Anderson still can’t draw a walk. All hitters previously mentioned are capable of the long ball, and Boyd has proved susceptible to giving up a few, but if he can manage to keep the ball in the park, this isn’t a challenging lineup to navigate. Minus Adam Eaton, of course.
Adam Eaton causes me to throw something against my wall, but the rest of the White Sox continue to play like the Chicago White Sox. The Tigers bats will wake up against the pitching machine formerly known as Big Game James, and Matt Boyd will continue to prove that he’s a competent back-end starter.