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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: The game that no one wants to talk about

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Ian Kennedy vs. Francisco Liriano isn’t exactly primetime viewing in late September.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers played one of their most exciting games of the season on Thursday, a high-scoring affair led by one of the team’s most exciting prospects. Their starting pitcher, Matthew Boyd, didn’t do so hot, but he is still young and promising enough that Tigers fans have (mostly) looked forward to his starts down the stretch.

We can’t say the same for this game. Francisco Liriano is on the mound for the Tigers on Friday, and will be facing his highly paid counterpart, Ian Kennedy. The Royals handed Kennedy a $70 million contract at the start of the season, and... yeah. It was a decision we laughed about at the time, and would continue to laugh about today were our team not still trying to avoid a 100-loss season. Kennedy has been above replacement level this season, but certainly hasn’t been great. Even his days as a durable workhorse might be over, as he has worked just 106 23 frames this year.

We could pick through their respective numbers and see where Kennedy and Liriano compare, but it feels like a fruitless endeavor. Both are veteran pitchers whose best years are behind them, and both are pitching for rebuilding teams whose fanbases would rather see someone younger and more promising on the mound tonight.

Hey, maybe the offenses will set off a few more fireworks for us instead.

Kansas City Royals (52-101) at Detroit Tigers (62-91)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Ian Kennedy (2-8, 4.73 ERA) vs. LHP Francisco Liriano (5-10, 4.54 ERA)

Game 156 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Keller 133.1 16.9 8.4 3.53 2.4
Norris 34.2 25.6 9.6 4.57 0.2

Kennedy is now two years removed from his last above-average season, but Royals fans holding out hope that he might still have something left in his right arm should pay attention to his last two starts. Since coming off the disabled list following an oblique strain, Kennedy has allowed just three runs (two earned) in 12 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio isn’t great, but he hasn’t allowed a home run yet, and is also limiting hits against him.

Of course, we could just point at his numbers over the past two years and say “give it time.” Kennedy’s strikeout rate has dipped since a couple of great years in San Diego — which landed him that gaudy contract in the first place — and he continues to allow too many home runs. His swinging strike rate hints at even further decline, as it sits at a career-worst 8.4 percent this season. Opponents are making on more of his pitches outside the strike zone than ever before, and are getting to more of them in the zone as well. His 81.9 percent contact rate against is his highest since a small 39 inning sample with the New York Yankees back in 2008.

Key matchup: Kennedy vs. the top of the Tigers lineup

As we have mentioned a number of times on the site over the course of the year, the Tigers are very bad against right-handed pitching. Their 81 wRC+ against righties is still the worst in the American League by a wide margin. Things have seemed a little more balanced lately, however. Jeimer Candelario looked back to his early-season form before suffering a minor back injury earlier this week, and Christin Stewart has looked very capable in the second spot. Candelario probably won’t play again on Friday, but Stewart (and friends) will make navigating Detroit’s lineup just a bit tougher.

Prediction

A game will happen and few people will watch it.

Gameday reading