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Tigers vs. White Sox Preview: One last All-Star audition for Matthew Boyd

A dominant outing could help Boyd’s chances of becoming a replacement pitcher in next week’s All-Star Game.

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Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The full 2019 All-Star Game rosters have been announced, and Tigers lefthander Matthew Boyd is among those that were snubbed. It’s something many of us expected — teams with a .333 win percentage don’t usually land multiple All-Stars — but disappointing all the same.

Luckily, there is still a chance for Boyd to make the squad. Starters that pitch on the Sunday before the All-Star Game are typically replaced on the roster so as to not over-tax their arms on short rest in an exhibition game (thank goodness it’s just an exhibition again). As of Thursday morning, two starters on the AL roster — Charlie Morton and Mike Minor — are slated to start on Sunday. A third (Minnesota’s Jake Odorizzi), is also in line to start Sunday, but isn’t officially listed yet.

Will Boyd get the call when spots open up on the AL roster? It’s tough to say. Boyd has fallen off from his blistering early season pace, but still ranks 10th in the American League in fWAR. His June ERA wasn’t very pretty, but he struck out 41 batters in 29 innings. He won’t get a chance to impress AL manager Alex Cora firsthand — the Tigers start a home series against Boston on Friday — but maybe just being in the same building will give Boyd a leg up in Cora’s mind when he decides on replacements over the weekend.

A dominant outing against the White Sox on Thursday wouldn’t hurt, though.

Detroit Tigers (27-54) at Chicago White Sox (41-42)

Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, ESPN+, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (5-6, 3.72 ERA) vs. RHP Reynaldo Lopez (4-7, 6.12 ERA)

Game 81 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Boyd 101.2 30.8 4.8 3.56 2.6
Lopez 92.2 20.0 9.2 5.84 0.4

Kyle dove into Lopez’s struggles earlier this week before Tuesday’s postponement.

The exact reason for his struggles is tricky to pinpoint. His velocity is a tick down, but not significantly, and pitch usage is fairly similar to last season. Lopez has brought his strikeout rate up to 20 percent while keeping his walks the same, but as mentioned before, his home run numbers are elevated.

Maybe there is some element of bad luck which is at least partially responsible for the less impressive results. Lopez’s BABIP is at .321, much higher than his .284 career average, and his 15.9 percent home run to fly ball rate is almost five points above his average. These do not explain the whole picture, but do not be surprised to see him improve during the second half.

For one reason or another opponents are hitting the ball much harder off Lopez this year than they have in the past. According to Statcast, Lopez is allowing hard contact 43.8 percent of the time, one of the worst marks in baseball. His average exit velocity of 90.3 miles per hour is Not Great Bob, resulting in an expected slugging average (xSLG) of .500, in the bottom 10 percent of all pitchers.

Key matchup: Tigers hitters vs. solving Lopez’s dominance

For all of the struggles Lopez has endured this year, he has utterly dominated the Tigers in a pair of starts. In 12 innings against Detroit, Lopez has allowed just two earned runs on nine hits. He has walked three, and struck out 22 batters.

Yes, that’s 22 strikeouts in 12 innings. Not-so-fun fact: Tigers hitters have a 47 percent strikeout rate against Lopez this year.

This isn’t just a 2019 thing either. Lopez has a 2.86 ERA in nine career starts against Detroit, albeit without the same gaudy strikeout rate. He has only allowed 47 hits in 56 23 innings, though, including just two home runs.

Prediction

Boyd out-duels Lopez and the bullpen doesn’t blow it this time.