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Tigers vs. Rangers Preview: Upcoming series a battle of have nots

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The Tigers and Rangers square off after getting roughed up by two of MLB’s best teams.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers and Rangers are not very good this year. One look at their records will tell you that. A glance at their recent results will as well, as both teams are coming off sweeps at the hands of the last two World Series champions. The Tigers were out-classed in Chicago by a Cubs team that would be in first place in most divisions, while the Rangers were swept by the Astros at home.

Series like the upcoming one may be more common than usual over the final three months of the season. The gulf between contenders and pretenders is staggering throughout baseball; not only has it saturated the trade market with sellers, but it has resulted in a relatively lackluster playoff race. The American League Wild Card race, for instance, is essentially a battle between the Yankees and Mariners to see who will host the Wild Card game. The next closest contender? Seven games behind the Mariners, and no one else is within 11 games.

The National League race should be a little more exciting, but we’re still left with 10 American League teams all but playing out the string, and we haven’t even reached the All-Star break yet.

Luckily, the Tigers made some roster moves late on Wednesday to keep things interesting. Can those new faces make a difference this weekend?

Texas Rangers (38-49) at Detroit Tigers (38-50)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Lone Star Ball
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Yovani Gallardo (2-0, 9.00 ERA) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (4-6, 4.18 ERA)

Game 89 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Gallardo 20.0 17.2 10.8 5.60 0.0
Boyd 88.1 20.6 9.5 4.10 1.3

Remember when Yovani Gallardo was a legitimate mid-rotation starter? Yes, his days with the Milwaukee Brewers are long gone at this point, but he posted a 3.42 ERA in 184 13 innings with the Rangers as recently as 2015. Sure, he was a bit fortunate to post those numbers — his 4.31 xFIP was nearly a full run higher that year — but it earned him a nice little payday the following offseason.

It may also be the reason the Rangers brought him back after a disastrous start to the season with the Cincinnati Reds. Gallardo gave up eight runs in just 2 13 innings, and quickly found himself on the free agent market. He signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, who recently called him up to avoid one of those pesky opt-out clauses. He hasn’t been great in three starts with the big league club so far, but has gotten better in each one. His last was a solid 7 13 inning performance in which he gave up three runs and struck out seven. It was against the White Sox, though.

Surprisingly, Gallardo’s fastball velocity hasn’t budged much since debuting in the big leagues over a decade ago. He is still averaging 92 miles per hour with the heater, though he can’t reach back for 96-97 mph like he could in his prime. He’s throwing that fastball far less often, however, pairing it with his high-80s slider. That pitch seems to have morphed a bit over time, becoming a bit tighter and more cutter-like. His changeup generates the highest whiff rate of all his pitches, but he also throws it less often than anything else.

Key matchup: Matthew Boyd vs. some bad history against the Rangers

While he didn’t face them earlier this season, Boyd has made five career starts against the Rangers. They... haven’t gone well. Boyd is 1-4 with a 5.53 ERA in those outings, and the Rangers have hit a healthy .304/.336/.591 against him. This isn’t really a surprise; the Rangers have won two division titles since Boyd reached the majors, and have generally sported a relatively righty-heavy lineup. The 2018 Rangers have a fairly pedestrian offense, which has a 95 wRC+ on the year. They have been slightly better against lefties, with a league average 100 wRC+, but these numbers wouldn’t normally have us concerned.

Their recent production should, though. The Rangers’ lineup is mostly healthy now after being ravaged by injuries earlier in the year, and they are hitting like it. Over the past 30 days, they rank fourth in baseball with a 116 wRC+. Shin-Soo Choo is leading the way with a .463 weighted on-base average (wOBA) during that stretch, while regulars Robinson Chirinos, Adrian Beltre, Jurickson Profar, and Delino DeShields have also been on fire.

Prediction

Boyd’s regression tour continues and the Tigers drop game one.

Gameday reading