After a clown-shoes loss against the Chicago White Sox on Friday night and a game postponed due to a snowstorm in Chicago on Saturday evening, the Detroit Tigers look to split the away series Sunday afternoon in an intra-divisional battle between two teams neck-deep in their respective rebuilds.
Many believe that the White Sox are a year or two ahead of the Tigers in their organizational renovations, thanks in large part to some hefty returns from trading off veterans like Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. However, they ended 2018 two games behind the Tigers and trail behind this season as well in the win column. A good deal of this is due to many of their prospects failing to reach their ceilings.
The Tigers pitching staff has been decimated by injuries over the past month after a solid start to 2019. Despite ranking fifth in the majors per FanGraphs wins above replacement (fWAR) even with Friday night’s debacle accounted for, the loss of Michael Fulmer and Matt Moore to season-ending ailments, as well as Jordan Zimmermann and Blaine Hardy joining the injury list has threatened to reduce the pitching personnel into a smoldering pile of replacement-level hurlers, severe underacheivers and not-quite-ready-for-prime-time players.
Fortunately, the Tigers have an ace in Matthew Boyd to swoop in and rescue the team, with an assist to Mother Nature for a much-needed day off on Saturday. He is arguably the best player on the Tigers’ roster currently, and his magical season so far has played a huge role in keeping the club afloat in the American League Central race. Coming into the game with a 2-1 record and sporting a spiffy 11.2 K/9 rate, Boyd has assumed the role of top dog with authority. He is a superlative among pitchers in the majors at the moment, with an ERA of 3.16, a 2.40 FIP and accumulating 1.3 fWAR already in the first month of this season.
Detroit Tigers (12-13) at Chicago White Sox (10-14)
Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (2-1, 3.16 ERA) vs. RHP Reynaldo López (1-3, 7.46 ERA)
Game 26 Pitching Matchup
Speaking of the White Sox’ efforts in rebuilding through trades, Reynaldo López was acquired in the Adam Eaton exchange with the Washington Nationals back in December 2016. So far, López has been the most appreciable return from that trade, especially with Dane Dunning — ranked as the 59th best prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline — undergoing the dreaded Tommy John surgery last month, and Lucas Giolito’s significant struggles last year that have bled into the current one.
Sporting a 70 grade fastball, along with a 60 FV curveball, a 50 FV changeup and 50 FV command per FanGraphs, he has major league-level tools at his disposal which he parlayed into an above-average rookie season last year. In 188 2⁄3 innings pitched, López performed to the tune of a 3.91 ERA with a bloated 4.63 FIP and 1.272 WHIP for an ERA+ of 108.
Consistency was the biggest issue for López in 2018. He began the first month of the season with a sub-2.00 ERA and kept it under 3.00 until his last May start. He then encountered an eleven-outing stretch from June to August that yielded an ugly ERA of 6.64. He then bounced back with a 1.38 ERA over his final seven games to finish the year with flair. 2019 has treated López similarly so far — after three rough games he has bounced back to pitch quality starts in his last two outings, showing that he still has not shaken off instability bug.
López has already faced the Tigers once this year back on April 21, allowing three runs (two earned) in six innings on seven hits, striking out eight en route to a no-decision in a 4-3 loss at Detroit. Last year he only qualified for a loss in his first game of the season versus the Tigers. In six starts, he averaged 6 2⁄3 innings and never posted an ERA higher than 4.66 in any of those games. He struck out a total of 26 batters in 37 2⁄3 innings and walked 12; he also induced five double plays and hit three batters. For his career, the current Tigers roster is batting .241 with an OPS of .738, cranking three home runs, taking nine free passes, and striking out 25 times in 126 plate appearances against him.
Key Matchup: Matthew Boyd vs. the White Sox lineup
The White Sox roster under its current construction is batting a robust .287 average against Matthew Boyd over the course of those respective players’ careers, but with an OPS of just .697 — Boyd has only allowed one walk and eight extra base hits over 103 PA to the cumulative squad. Over that span, he struck out 24 of those batters for a 23.3% K rate, which has been the key to his meteoric rise in 2019. Boyd has not faced Chicago yet this year, so it will be important for him continue doing what has worked so well for him thus far.
Boyd cruises to his third win of the season pitching eight innings, with the Tigers putting up just enough offense to squeak by with the victory and the split of the weather-shortened two-game series. Shane Greene gets his 12th save of 2019 closing out the ninth in rollercoaster fashion.