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Tigers vs. Braves Preview: Matthew Boyd aims to extend scoreless streak in series finale

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Boyd hasn’t given up a run in his last two starts, albeit against subpar competition.

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MLB: Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Matthew Boyd gave up a run was in the seventh inning of his start against the Oakland Athletics. That was May 18, 15 days ago — an eternity on baseball’s 162-game schedule. Since then, Boyd has tossed twin six-inning gems, holding his opponents to just 11 combined hits and two walks, with 15 strikeouts in 12 scoreless innings of work.

Those starts were against the Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles, though, so it will be interesting to see how he does against stiffer competition on Sunday.

To his credit, Boyd has held up well against the better teams around the game. His 13-strikeout performance against the New York Yankees announced his arrival to most of the baseball world, and he tossed seven innings in a win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in late April. The Astros knocked him out early after driving up his pitch count, but they are going to do that to many a pitcher in 2019.

That leaves the Braves, who are quite good against left-handed pitching. After knocking around Daniel Norris on Saturday, the Braves now have a 110 wRC+ against southpaws in 2019. This is tied for the sixth-best mark among MLB teams, and is third-best among NL clubs. They also have one of the lower strikeout rates against lefties in the game, something that will be put to the test against Boyd’s 13.2 percent swinging strike rate.

Can Boyd and the Tigers deliver a series win in Atlanta?

Detroit Tigers (22-33) at Atlanta Braves (31-27)

Time/Place: 1:20 p.m., SunTrust Park
SB Nation site: Talking Chop
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
M: LHP Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (5-4, 2.85 ERA) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (3-4, 3.53 ERA)

Game 57 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Boyd 72.2 29.9 5.1 2.80 2.5
Teheran 66.1 22.3 11.7 4.49 0.6

Julio Teheran shrugged off a slow start in 2018 to log another 30-start season, his sixth in a row. You can pick your split — there are a few bad outings that make for nice endpoints — but I’m partial to noting that he had a 3.45 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning from June 29 to the end of the season. With an army of young, talented arms in the Braves farm system breathing down his neck, Teheran is now fighting for his job at all times.

This year, he is up to his old tricks. Teheran’s 3.53 ERA is wildly outperforming his 4.49 FIP, something he has done throughout his entire career (3.64 ERA to 4.19 FIP). He is also back to dominating at home, a split he eschewed during the 2018 season. Opponents are striking out nearly 10 times per nine innings against Teheran at SunTrust Park, and getting on base at a .309 clip. He is limiting righties to a .190 average and .273 OBP to boot, but they have homered off him six times in 145 plate appearances.

Teheran is naturally going to be one to dominate right-handed batters. His fastball usage is slightly down in 2019, but he throws either one of his heaters — the four-seam is his preferred version — or his slider nearly 75 percent of the time. He hasn’t become as slider-heavy as Boyd, though maybe he should, as opponents are hitting just .193 against it in his career. He has used his changeup more often against lefties and it seems to be working; they have managed a .672 OPS against him this year, though they are walking nearly 15 percent of the time.

Key matchup: Tigers offense vs. staying patient

The Tigers have sported one of the worst offenses in baseball throughout the 2019 season, and naturally, their struggles also extend to drawing walks. Detroit’s hitters have drawn walks in just 7.5 percent of their plate appearances this season, tied for the sixth-lowest rate in baseball. Only two other American League clubs are worse.

They will need to stay patient this afternoon against Teheran, who has struggled to find the strike zone at times in 2019. Teheran has walked at least two hitters in all but one of his starts this year, and has issued four free passes on three separate occasions, including in two of his past three starts. Lefties are walking at a 14.6 percent clip against him this year, which bodes well for the top of the Tigers’ lineup, assuming Niko Goodrum and Christin Stewart start there again on Sunday. If those two, in particular, can get on base ahead of the middle of Detroit’s order, it could be a nice afternoon for the Tigers offense.

Prediction

Boyd shines again but the Tigers offense does not and Detroit drops the series finale.