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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: A pair of struggling starters meet up in KC

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The Tigers may be able to actually score some runs. Maybe.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Very little has come easily for the Detroit Tigers this season, and the blame can go all around; in the month of May, the offense ranks 23rd with 92 wRC+ and the pitching ranks 20th with a 4.49 FIP. While many individuals have posted decent stat lines, the overall results have not turned into wins. As a result, the Tigers do not look like a team headed for a great season.

If Detroit hopes to turn things around, the rotation must begin to carry its weight. Michael Fulmer is having another great season, but every other starter features an ERA and FIP over 4.45. Among those struggling is Matthew Boyd, who has regressed in almost every area from a mediocre 2016. With an ERA almost one run higher, a K-BB percentage down seven points, and a hard contact rate up significantly, this season has not been kind to the young lefty.

The offense has been aggravatingly absent far too often in the past couple weeks, but the Tigers stand no shot if Boyd cannot keep them in the game. With a limited amount of reliable relievers behind him, the pressure lies on Boyd.

Detroit Tigers (24-28) at Kansas City Royals (22-29)

Time/Place: 8:15 p.m., Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation blog: Royals Review
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (2-5, 5.40 ERA) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (0-4, 4.43 ERA)

Game 53 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Boyd 51.2 15.1 9.7 4.74 0.4
Kennedy 42.2 20.7 11.5 5.26 0.0

Ian Kennedy signed a five-year deal with the Royals before last season and made an immediate impact. His 3.68 ERA and 1.7 fWAR were second-best amidst the Kansas City rotation, and he logged the most innings on the pitching staff. He picked up right where he left off to start 2017, posting a 2.30 ERA in five April starts.

Unfortunately, the month of May was quite the opposite for Kennedy. During the fifth inning of a start on May 4, he was removed with a hamstring injury and landed on the disabled list for over two weeks. In two starts since then he has given up nine runs in just seven innings and looks nowhere near as effective.

Injury is surely playing a role in this recent funk, but perhaps the Tigers can take advantage of a wounded foe. Kennedy gave up just four runs in over 18 innings during his three starts against Detroit last season, so the offense must take advantage of his recent stumble.

Key matchup: Matthew Boyd vs. righties

Over his career, Boyd has been better against left-handers, but his wOBA and FIP numbers are not too different between the two sides. However, the difference has been much more stark in 2017, with righties hitting .335 against him with a .389 wOBA, translating to a 4.83 FIP and 1.90 WHIP. The Royals have sluggers on both sides of the plate, but Boyd needs to find a way to retire right-handers. Surrendering a 43.4 percent hard contact rate against them is a sure way to find himself in trouble.

Outlook

Both starters come into Wednesday’s matchup ice cold. Over his last three starts, Boyd has 10.22 ERA and 6.04 FIP with just over four innings per start. Not to be outdone, Kennedy’s last three starts translate to a 10.32 ERA and 9.21 FIP with under four innings per outing. Neither trend will continue forever, but the optimism is not running too high right now.

The Tigers offense is too good to look as bad as they have recently, but it is difficult to identify what exactly needs to change. As Miguel Cabrera put it plainly, the Tigers just need to get it going. Few expected them to enter June five games under .500, but that could become a reality tonight.

Prediction

Boyd looks shaky at times, but does enough to get the win.