As needless as it is to say, the Tigers are rapidly approaching the sink-or-swim portion of the season. The AL Central may be slipping away, but there are two Wild Card spots that are there for the taking. In order for Detroit to secure one of them, games like tonight's must be won. The Tigers have dominated the Twins this season and are fortunate enough to face them a handful of times over the next two weeks.
There was a point in the season where Minnesota struck some fear, but those days are long gone. Over the last 30 days, the Twins are among the bottom 10 teams in runs scored, runs allowed, wRC+, and FIP. Though the Tigers have shown their own struggles recently -- particularly on offense -- they should be drooling over a matchup like this.
Matt Boyd takes the mound for Detroit after a seven-inning, two-run performance in Chicago. The offense gave him no support, but Boyd looked dependable again. Over his last five starts he owns a 2.40 ERA and has gone less than six innings only once. The offense woke up just in time on Monday night against Minnesota and will look to keep it rolling on Tuesday.
Can Boyd and the Tigers make it two in a row against the Twins?
Minnesota Twins (53-91) at Detroit Tigers (77-66)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Kyle Gibson (5-9, 5.34 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Boyd (5-3, 3.89 ERA)
2016 has not been Kyle Gibson's year. In addition to missing over a month on the disabled list, he has moved in the opposite direction of his previous two seasons. In 2015, Gibson posted a 3.84 ERA and 3.96 FIP, allowing a .248 average against while pitching almost 200 innings. All of his numbers have moved the wrong way in 2016, and though his FIP indicates that he may not be as poor as his 5.34 ERA, he does not currently inspire much confidence for the Twins.
Gibson is a ground ball pitcher who does not strike out a large volume of batters and he has seen his strikeout rate fall and his walk rate rise in 2016. Additionally, he is sporting the lowest ground ball rate and the highest home run rate of his career this season and has allowed a .299 batting average. Opponents are making hard contact 31.1 percent of the time, and his last four starts have resulted in 18 runs in 22 innings.
One of these four starts was against the Tigers in Minnesota, where he surrendered seven hits and five runs over five innings. Two of the Detroit runs came on a bases-loaded walk and a wild pitch. The Tigers have always been a tough matchup for Gibson, and in nine starts against them he has allowed a 5.44 ERA, although the majority of those appearances came in 2014.
Hitter to fear: Robbie Grossman (.500/.800/2.000 in 5 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Joe Mauer (.000/.000/.000 in 6 plate appearances)
Boyd has fared well against the Twins, owning a 2.50 ERA in three starts against them since joining the Tigers. He did allow two solo shots in a start in Minnesota in late August, but he only gave up three runs in total over six innings while striking out seven. Most Twins have a poor batting average against Boyd in their limited experience against him.
This sure looks like a game that the Tigers can, and should, win. The offense has not always been up to the task in September, but Gibson is not the type of pitcher that should cause many problems for Detroit. Meanwhile, Boyd has been solid lately and has handled the Twins well in the past. All signs are pointing up for the Tigers in this matchup.
Boyd goes six strong innings and the offense takes charge for the win.