After an eight-game, three-team road trip, the Tigers come back home sitting a couple games under .500. Though we have just begun the second month of the season, there is starting to be some separation between contenders and pretenders, and it looks pretty clear to which group Detroit belongs. Nevertheless, the home team will have a chance to claw back to an even record against a pair of beatable squads.
Up first are the Kansas City Royals, who predictably sit at the bottom of the AL Central, already 10 games under .500. The Royals are not quite the very bottom of the league, but they do rank 18th in wRC+, 23rd in FIP, 24th in starter ERA, and 26th in reliever ERA. To put it nicely, there are very few positives in Kansas City right now.
This is a positive, however, for Matthew Boyd. The Tigers’ apparent ace has been excellent this season and sports a Detroit-themed 3.13 ERA. What standouts most about his hot start is a 31.8 percent strikeout rate which ranks seventh in all of baseball. While this rate is significantly above his career average, Boyd has been superb with a 68.5 percent contact rate and a 15.6 percent swinging strike rate.
The Royals do not necessarily strike out a ton, but they have not been especially scary at the plate either. For Boyd to continue his breakout season, he will need to mow through lesser competition. Friday night offers him the opportunity to do just that.
Detroit Tigers (13-15) at Kansas City Royals (11-21)
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 Jorge Lopez (0-2, 5.08 ERA) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (2-2, 3.13 ERA)
Game 29 Pitching Matchup
On the mound for the Royals will be Jorge Lopez, a former Brewer who came over in the Mike Moustakas trade last season. The start to 2019 has been eerily similar to his 2018 numbers, with very close ERAs (5.03 vs. 5.08), WHIPs (1.47 vs. 1.43), and BABIPs (.303 vs. .303). Though he is striking out almost two more batters per nine innings, he is surrendering more homers as well, bumping his FIP up almost a whole run to 5.23.
Lopez has already faced the Tigers once this season, giving up just one run in six innings before the Royals bullpen fell apart. He throws a fastball, curveball, and sinker, though none are overpowering. His sinker is probably his most productive pitch — but also the most hittable — and he is able to keep the ball on the ground and not going over the fence.
The righty has given up exactly four earned runs in four of his six starts this season. Though he has already handled the Tigers, these are the type of opposing starters against whom the Detroit offense needs to take advantage. Coupled with Boyd on the mound, this is a very winnable game to kick off the homestand.
Key matchup: The top of the order vs. a mediocre pitcher
The Tigers offense is still struggling, but at least the top of the lineup has looked better recently. Jeimer Candelario (108 wRC+), Nicholas Castellanos (127), Miguel Cabrera (121), and Niko Goodrum (116) have become a legitimate combination over the past two weeks, and the power is ever-so-slightly starting to emerge. These four hitters will have to lead the way for the rest of the team, but Lopez should not pose too much of a threat.
Boyd cruises as the Tigers win easily in Game 1.