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Tigers vs. Indians Preview: Matthew Boyd aims to continue dominance over Tribe

Boyd’s career numbers against the Indians are impressive, but they have been coming on strong of late.

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MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Boyd has enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, one that should hopefully result in his first All-Star appearance. However, he has pitched like an All-Star against the Cleveland Indians throughout his entire career. Through nine appearances (eight starts) and 49 23 innings against the Tribe, Boyd has held them to a 2.90 ERA. He has a modest 41 strikeouts to 18 walks in those games, but has limited them to a .236/.316/.363 line.

Oddly, their two best hitters have great numbers against Boyd. Jose Ramirez has a solid .796 OPS with a triple and a home run in 25 plate appearances, while Francisco Lindor is 9-for-22 with a pair of homers in his career against Boyd. The rest of the roster has struggled, however, and Boyd took advantage of a Lindor-less lineup when he held them to a run on four hits in a 4-1 win over the Indians on April 10.

This is a different Cleveland club now, though. Lindor is back, and the Indians have won 11 of their 17 games in the month of June. Their offense has scored 95 runs in those games, (over 5 12 per game) and have a 110 wRC+ this month, which ranks seventh in baseball.

Can Boyd quiet the Cleveland offense on Friday?

Detroit Tigers (26-44) at Cleveland Indians (39-35)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Progressive Field
SB Nation site: Let’s Go Tribe
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (5-5, 3.35 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (5-6, 3.41 ERA)

Game 72 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Boyd 88.2 30.7 4.7 3.00 2.8
Bauer 108.1 25.9 10.0 4.12 1.8

We dove into Trevor Bauer’s 2019 struggles last week, just before he tossed a four-hit shutout against the Tigers, naturally.

Since May 1, it has come crashing down. Bauer has allowed a 37 runs (28 earned) in his last 51 2⁄3 innings, and four runs or more in six of his eight outings. His strikeout touch is still there — he has punched out seven hitters or more in five of those eight starts — but so is his penchant for losing his control. He has walked three batters or more in five of those starts (including eight free passes in his last two starts), and his walk rated has climbed back north of 10 percent for the first time since 2015.

While those numbers were true from May 1 to June 11, it might be time to start looking at a new set of goalposts. Bauer has allowed just one run across 16 23 innings in his last two starts, both wins for an Indians club desperately in need of them right now. He has managed 21 strikeouts in three June outings, and his eight walks in 24 23 innings (an 8.3 percent rate) is far more tolerable than what he managed in May.

The tail end of that last preview highlighted something Bauer has yet to conquer this year, though: his own ballpark. Both of Bauer’s last two outings have come on the road, and he still has a 4.94 ERA and 11.8 percent walk rate at Progressive Field this season. Opponents are getting on base at a .323 clip against him in eight starts at home. He has also allowed more than twice as many home runs at home (9) as he allowed there all of last season (4).

Key matchup: Tigers hitters vs. Bauer’s cutter

Bauer threw the Tigers a bit of a wrinkle in his last start, using more cutters (38) than in any other start this year. He threw 29 of them for strikes, and the Tigers’ right-handed heavy lineup put eight of them into play, six for outs. This paired well with Bauer’s fastball, which was responsible for seven more outs, many of them on the ground. The Tigers’ lineup might not be quite so righty-heavy this time around — Niko Goodrum should be back in the lineup, and JaCoby Jones probably won’t lead off — but they still have plenty of adjustments to make.

Prediction

Bauer dominates the Tigers again and Cleveland takes the series opener.