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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: Matthew Boyd needs a bounce-back outing

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Boyd struggled in the season opener, but is back on home footing on Wednesday.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Boyd being named the Tigers’ Opening Day starter this season may not have seemed a likely outcome when he was acquired by the team in 2015, but by the time it was announced this year, it seemed the obvious choice. His transformation from a low-ceiling trade throw-in, into a valuable player in his own right is becoming the stuff of legend around Tigers fandom. At the center of that story is the constant self-improvement in his ability to strike batters out.

Unfortunately, that ability wasn’t exactly on display in his season debut last week. Facing off against a potent Cincinnati Reds lineup, Boyd crumbled. He only struck out two batters, walked another two, worked deep into counts, and served up a number of pitches in the opposing hitters’ wheelhouse. There’s no indication that Boyd will be particularly worse than expected in the long term, but in the short term, the Tigers need him to get himself right as quickly as possible.

Detroit Tigers (3-2) at Kansas City Royals (2-3)

Time/Place: 7:10 pm, Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching matchup: LHP Danny Duffy (0-1, 4.15 ERA) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (0-1, 7.20 ERA)

Game 9 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Fulmer (2019) 132.1 19.7% 8.2% 4.52 1.4
Bauer (2019) 213.0 27.8% 9.0% 4.34 3.3

The Tigers have collectively been the proverbial thorn in Duffy’s side in their recent matchups. Detroit has tagged him for 20 earned runs over the course of his last four starts against the team, totaling 25 13 innings and an eyesore 7.11 ERA. The offense has been clicking nicely to open the season and, fortunately, tonight’s foe won’t be their most challenging hurdle of the season.

The key in taking down Duffy lies in the ability to lay off his curveball, which he primarily throws below the zone. However, he’s unafraid to challenge hitters with his fastballs in the meaty part of the strike zone. On the whole, the Tigers hit fastballs better than breaking balls, and would do well to hunt for four-seamers and sinkers often and early. The main concern lies in the team’s ability to pitch to the Royals — a team who has also been hot and kept the Tigers on their toes in Tuesday’s game.

Key Matchup: Tigers pitchers vs. actually pitching

Due more to circumstance than to choice, the Tigers have leaned extraordinarily heavily on their bullpen in both games of this series thus far. The ‘pen took over for Micheal Fulmer after his scheduled three-inning game and pitched through the entirety of Tuesday’s game. The Tigers’ relief corps could really use a break from the action in tonight’s contest if they can get one.

If they are to get that needed rest, Boyd will need to have much better control than he did on Opening Day. The Royals have made the Tigers pay for their pitching mistakes, repeatedly punching hung breaking balls or middle-cut fastballs into the corners or out to the bleachers. Turning the tide on them won’t be easy for the work-weary Tigers pitching staff unless Boyd carries his pitching effort into the late innings.

Prediction: Another slugfest breaks out; both lineups exploit shaky starting pitching and poor relief options.