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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: Detroit makes the trek to Omaha in series finale

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Detroit and Kansas City will open up the College World Series in Omaha.

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College World Series - Arkansas v Oregon State - Game One Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers will wrap up their three game series against the Kansas City Royals in Omaha, Neb. on Thursday, just two days prior to the Michigan Wolverines’ scheduled opener against Texas Tech in the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park.

The Royals are tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in the major leagues, while the Tigers are 5 12 games ahead of them, in fourth place in the AL Central division. There is little at stake, other than the seeding for the next amateur player draft in June 2020. The two teams have split the first two games of the series, with each team claiming a 3-2 victory in the games in Kansas City.

The game will be the first ever MLB regular season game in Omaha, which is just 185 miles north of Kansas City, and will be nationally televised on ESPN as part of an ongoing program of bringing major league games to non traditional venues. MLB scheduled a game at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in 2016, and two games have been played in Williamsport, Penn., home of the Little League World Series. MLB has also scheduled international games in Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, with a game slated for London next season.

Omaha has hosted the College World Series every year since 1950. TD Ameritrade Park, which opened in 2011, seats 24,000 with the ability to expand up to 35,000 fans. The park is host to the Creighton Bulldogs, who were defeated by Michigan in the regional final this season, and is also host to the Big Ten baseball tournament, at least through 2022.

The field features a $5.2 million scoreboard, and major league dimensions of 335 feet down the lines and 408 feet to straight-away center field. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred commented “This may be the best non-major league facility in North America.”

NCAA Baseball: College World Series Championship-Arkansas vs Oregon State Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Metropolitan Omaha has a population of about one million residents, half of whom live within the city limits. The city once co-hosted the Kansas City-Omaha Kings of the National Basketball Association from 1972-1976. That franchise was formerly the Cincinnati Royals and are now the Sacramento Kings. The city also is host to the Pacific Coast league’s Triple-A franchise, the Omaha Storm Chasers, who play in a smaller venue.

Detroit Tigers (25-39) at Kansas City Royals (21-46)

Time/Place: 8:15 p.m., TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: ESPN, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matt Boyd (5-4, 3.08 ERA) vs. RHP Homer Bailey (4-6, 5.90 ERA)

Game 66 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K/9 BB/9 FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K/9 BB/9 FIP fWAR
Boyd 84.2 11.2 1.6 2.91 2.8
Bailey 61.0 8.1 3.8 4.38 0.8

Matthew Boyd has been the ace of the Tigers’ starting rotation since the start of the 2019 season. He currently ranks second among American League pitchers in fWAR, and is among the leaders in strikeouts, walk rate, and ERA. He leads the league and is second in the majors with an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of 7.00.

Boyd is an All-Star candidate this season, and also a candidate to be traded, with three and a half seasons of club control remaining, in his first of four seasons of arbitration eligibility. It would take a nice haul of young players for the Tigers to deal their star pitcher, but he will be on the national stage in Omaha.

Homer Bailey is a 33-year-old righthander and a veteran of 13 seasons in the major leagues. The first dozen of those were spent with the Cincinnati Reds, who selected him in the first round (seventh overall) in the 2004 amateur player draft. When healthy, he has been the personification of a serviceable, mid-rotation starter with a 4.63 career ERA, no All-Star appearances and just two seasons where he even approached 200 innings.

In 225 games, Bailey has never made an appearance in relief, and has recorded 1,056 strikeouts in 1,291 innings of work. He is five seasons removed from what might be called a “full season” or a “good season,” with ERAs hovering above 5.00 in recent years. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015, at the start of his second season after signing a six-year, $105 million dollar contract extension with the Reds. The Dodgers took Bailey in exchange for Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and cash, then released him which allowed the Royals to pick him up for just the major league minimum salary.

Key matchup: Detroit’s lineup vs. plate discipline

Bailey has been plenty hittable, serving up some of the finest meatballs in the majors for hitters who are patient enough to wait for them to cross the plate.

Prediction

Boyd shuts down the Royals while a random number of Tigers will get to Bailey, as the Michigan baseball team enjoys the start of the College World Series experience.