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Tigers vs. Athletics Preview: Matt Boyd into the breach

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The Tigers need Boyd to play stopper to end a brutal week of losing.

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Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game One Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Putting together a game preview requires a bit of research. Even when the two teams are familiar, a good writer investigates more than just statistics. However, rarely does the Google search, “mustache typology” come into play. That is not the case for Saturday’s matchup between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics. Daniel Mengden and his handlebars will take the mound for the visitors, and we have to be sure we’ve properly ID’d his facial foliage, lest we draw the ire of hipsters and mustache enthusiasts everywhere.

Mengden will have a tough task, as he faces off against the Tigers’ de facto ace Matt Boyd in this one. After carving through the opposition with no difficult through eight starts, the left-hander finally ran into trouble in the form of the dangerous Houston Astros the last time out. Boyd lasted just four innings, allowing three runs, including a pair of home runs, as the AL West leading Astros pounded the Tigers.

We’re quite confident that this was just a blip on the radar for Boyd. He struggled to keep his fourseam fastball out of the middle of the zone, and the Astros made him pay, fouling off a lot of pitches and forcing Boyd into deep counts. However, as we’ve discussed at length, his slider is undeniably legit, and now one of the better swing-and-miss breaking balls in the game. He’s also ditched his sinker almost totally, increased the usage and spin rate on his fourseamer, and has generally dominated with those two pitches. There is every reason to think he’ll do so again in this one.

Oakland Athletics (21-25) at Detroit Tigers (18-25)

Time/Place: 4:05 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation site: Athletics Nation

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Daniel Mengden (0-1, 6.75 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Boyd (4-3, 3.15 ERA)

Game 44 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Mengden 5.1 16.7 16.7 3.87 0.1
Boyd 54.1 29.7 5.9 2.86 1.8

Daniel Mengden is still only 26, but he’s been bouncing up and down between the A’s rotation and the minor leagues since 2016. Injuries, and an inability to find a consistent breaking ball have pushed him into a sixth man role with the A’s. He can eat some innings, and his fastball generates a lot of routine fly ball outs, particularly in larger pitcher’s parks like the Coliseum and Comerica Park, but there should be plenty of contact with Mengden on the mound.

Yes, even with this enfeebled Tigers’ lineup going against him.

Against fourseam fastballs between 91-95 mph, the Tigers have posted a .366 wOBA, good for 16th among 30 MLB teams. And Mengden doesn’t have a whole lot else to offer. He mixed his cutter in more often than in year’s past in his one start this season, and those two pitches accounted for 70 percent of his offerings back on May 12, when he debuted against the Cleveland Indians and allowed four runs in 5 13 innings of work. Unless Mengden has recaptured the better slider and changeup he had early in his major league career, the Tigers shouldn’t have much trouble putting a lot of balls in play against him.

Key Matchup: The Tigers vs. first pitch strikes

I’m tempted to key in on the matchup of starting pitcher eccentricities. Mengden is known to be his own man, using intermittent fasting and a strict diet as part of his offseason conditioning. He entered spring camp claiming to be 15 pounds leaner, as did Matt Boyd. The Tigers’ left-hander underwent DNA testing, altered his diet this offseason, and is now carrying different pairs of tinted sunglasses to help his body maintain its Circadian rhythm throughout the weird hours and extensive travel required over the course of a major league season. They should probably compare notes after this contest is over.

However, Mengden has discussed his need to get ahead of hitters, and locate more first pitches for strikes. He doesn’t really have the weapons to get whiffs if he’s falling behind early. Expect him to mix the fastball and cutter heavily and try to pound the zone for weak fly ball outs early in counts. Meanwhile, both Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera are seeing more first pitch strikes this season, and thus far have been rather passive. They need to do some damage early on, before Mengden settles into his game plan of getting fly balls into Comerica’s vast center field, where defensive wizard Ramon Laureano will no doubt be ready to run them all down in irritating fashion.

Prediction

The Tigers have lost five in a row, and they have their ace on the mound. Let’s say it’s a must-win game (aren’t they all?), and so a lineup that chased over 30 pitches out of the zone against Frankie Montas will get their act together and drive the team to a must needed victory.