I’m not the biggest fan of day baseball games. Yes, they’re great when you’re at the park, but most people only go to a couple of games per year. And they’re fine on the weekends when you probably don’t have anything better to do. But during the week? They’re not my cup of tea, especially as someone who needs to sort out how they are covered on this site (the first week of the season is the bane of my existence).
That said, it’s just my luck that the Tigers are heading into nearly a full week’s worth of day games. They will start at 1:07 p.m. ET on each of the next three days, as the Blue Jays celebrate Canada Day. Then, they move to Chicago, where they will play a couple of day games at Wrigley Field (those I’ll allow). They also have a couple of afternoon starts in a weekend series against the Texas Rangers next weekend.
So, be sure to set your DVR (or practice hiding your monitor from your boss). We won’t see another evening start from the Tigers until next Thursday, an oddity at this point of the season.
And if you’re like me and prefer the convenience of night games? Consider this: the Tigers are a .500 team (19-19) in day starts this season. Here’s hoping that bodes well for a team on its longest skid since 2003.
Detroit Tigers (36-47) at Toronto Blue Jays (38-43)
Time/Place: 1:07 p.m., Rogers Centre
SB Nation site: Bluebird Banter
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (4-6, 4.15 ERA) vs. RHP Sam Gaviglio (2-2, 3.98 ERA)
Game 84 Pitching Matchup
Sam Gaviglio feels like he has been one of the Blue Jays’ middle relievers for the past six years, but my assumption is wildly mistaken. The 28-year-old righthander was a fifth round pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011, and the Jays are now his fourth organization. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners in November 2014, then claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Royals last September. The Blue Jays acquired him in March, and he has recently blossomed into one of their better starters.
This is only Gaviglio’s second season of major league action, but the improvement in his strikeout rate is, well... striking. He fanned just 15.7 percent of batters last season with the M’s and Royals, but is up to 23.7 percent this season. He has paired that with a low walk rate to produce a 3.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio, about double what he managed last year.
The biggest reason for that jump seems to be his slider. As Patrick Brennan points out in a piece that will be released at Beyond the Box Score in the coming days, Gaviglio’s slider now ranks 34th among 232 MLB pitchers in swinging strike rate, at 23.1 percent. It’s a huge jump from where it was last year, and opponents aren’t hitting it very well. Gaviglio pairs that pitch with a pedestrian fastball that sits in the high 80s. He uses those two pitches the most, with a curveball and changeup also in the mix.
Key matchup: Matthew Boyd vs. pitching at Rogers Centre
It may be somewhat unfair to cite these numbers when they include three starts from his rookie season, but Boyd has not fared very well on the Rogers Centre mound. He was knocked around for 11 runs on 15 hits in 6 2⁄3 innings in two starts with the Jays in 2015, including a disastrous outing against the Red Sox where he did not record an out. He also coughed up five runs in six innings when he returned as a visitor later in the year.
The end results are not pretty. Opponents have hit .342/.386/.697 with eight home runs against Boyd in just four starts in Toronto. His ERA is 8.66 in those outings, and he is allowing a WHIP north of 1.7. Things are a bit different for him now (especially in 2018), but his last start in a small, hitter-friendly ballpark didn’t go well either.
Boyd gets hammered and the Tigers lose again.