Matthew Boyd is one of the hottest and most coveted names heading into the July 31 trade deadline. He will take the mound tonight not only possibly for the last time as a Detroit Tiger, but perhaps against his future teammates. The Phillies have been linked to multiple members of the Tigers, specifically pitchers, as they are urgently seeking upgrades to a struggling and injured rotation.
While Aaron Nola, Tuesday’s opposing starter, has been solid this year, he has not pitched to the same level of effectiveness that put him in conversation for NL Cy Young Award last season. Jake Arrieta has recently been diagnosed with a bone spur in his elbow, and while he will continue to pitch through it, it will eventually require surgery. This has taken its toll on the Phillies’ co-ace — one fateful pitch or play could bring his season to a halt altogether. Zach Eflin has been far from sharp lately, and Nick Pivetta was recently relocated to the bullpen due to ineffectiveness. The Phillies did sign former Tiger Drew Smyly in the last week; while his first start was good, there’s a reason he was let go by Texas already this year.
Simply put, the Phillies will be looking long and hard at Matthew Boyd in this game, along with Shane Greene and possibly even Daniel Norris as they seek to stabilize a pitching staff on a team with immediate championship aspirations. Boyd on the other hand, is looking to stabilize himself a bit. While his peripheral stats are some of the best in the league — his 6.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks fifth among qualified MLB starters, and he is tied for 12th in fWAR — he has not turned in a quality start in his past six outings, though he has gone deep enough into the game in four of those starts to qualify had he given up fewer runs.
Boyd should have a favorable matchup against the Phillies offense in this one. They currently rank 20th among MLB teams in both wOBA and wRC+. Rhys Hoskins is doing his thing again this year, but other big bats in the lineup pale in comparison. The $430 million dollar man himself, Bryce Harper, is hitting well, but his 119 wRC+ leave some room to be desired given his spot in the lineup and salary. Beyond him, big acquisitions on offense in Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto have struggled to hit for league average, and Andrew McCutchen is out for the year after tearing his ACL.
With such a struggling offense, now is not the time for the Phillies to have a pitching staff in shambles if they want to remain in the NL Wild Card race. They will need to make the most of their brief two-game series in Detroit.
Philadelphia Phillies (52-48) at Detroit Tigers (30-65)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: The Good Phight
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.77 ERA) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (6-8, 4.13 ERA)
Game 97 Pitching Matchup
Aaron Nola finished 3rd in last year’s NL Cy Young voting after a spectacular season (2.37 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 5.4 fWAR). His fourth season in the majors saw him take a big step forward from his breakout 2017 campaign, and ultimately resulted in the Phillies giving their 25-year-old ace an extension this past winter for four years and $45 million.
His 2019 season has been a step back thus far, looking similar to his 2017 season, which was still quite good by all accounts. While he has increased his strikeout rate over last year, he is also walking more batters and giving up more home runs. The latter issue is plaguing pitching league-wide this year as hitters are on pace to set yet another MLB record for home runs in a season. The Tigers are the second-worst team in MLB in terms of isolated power (ISO), and they also walk the fourth-fewest amount, so this should be a good matchup for Nola.
Key matchup: Struggling offenses vs. good pitching
By the numbers, this should be a low scoring affair. Both offenses will be looking to string together their hits and/or hit their home runs with men on base, but it should be easier said than done. That said, baseball has a funny way of frequently going against predictions and giving you something completely unexpected, so a slugfest is not out of the question. Still, I’m going with a back-and-forth game where the lead swapped a few times and it remains a close game into the late innings.
The Tigers hang around but get edged out in a battle of the bullpens. Boyd gets one more start as a Tiger.