The win streak was bound to end, as Wednesday’s loss to the Brewers halted the Tigers’ momentum after six straight victories. Back at .500, Detroit is still just a few ticks out of eighth place, which is all it takes to make the playoffs in 2020. With 26 games left to go, the next week could say a lot about how this season will end.
First up is a mega series against the Twins, the team that sits directly ahead of the Tigers in the AL Central standings. The three-game gap between the two could be a gigantic chasm after this five-game set; it could also be completely evaporated and swing in the Tigers’ favor. Detroit took all three games last weekend, but now the battleground turns to Minnesota.
Because of previously postponed games, this series begins with a doubleheader on Friday. It seems like a bit of deja vu, as the teams just played a pair of seven-inning contests last weekend, and the starting pitchers for the first game look to be the same as last Saturday. If the Tigers want to stay in the playoff hunt, they will likely need to take at least three of the five games over this holiday weekend.
Detroit Tigers (17-17) at Minnesota Twins (22-16)
Time/Place: 2:10 pm, Target Field
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Game 1 Probables: LHP Matthew Boyd (1-4, 7.27 ERA) vs. RHP Randy Dobnak (5-2, 3.12 ERA)
Game 2 Probables: TBD
Game 35 Pitching Matchup
Matthew Boyd started the first game of last week’s doubleheader and put together easily his best performance of the year, giving up just one run and four hits over six innings while striking out six batters. It was his first time reaching six innings this year and gives him a nice two-start stretch with a 2.38 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 24.4 percent K-BB rate, which are all very positive signs.
The opposite could be said for Randy Dobnak, who took the loss against Boyd last Saturday. Entering the start with a 1.78 ERA over six appearances — five of which went at least five innings — Dobnak looked like a formidable foe, but the Tigers bats jumped all over him, scoring six runs on 12 hits against him en route to a 8-2 win.
Obviously, basically nothing has changed for either starter in the past week, but do not be surprised if the outcome goes much differently during the sequel. Boyd probably is not as bad as his early numbers suggest, and Dobnak was a little fortunate to begin the season so hot, but it is clear that last Saturday was an extreme on opposite ends of the spectrum for both pitchers.
The second game of the doubleheader may wind up as a bullpen game for both teams, especially since each squad will be allowed an additional player on the roster with the extra game. Ron Gardenhire made the decision to push back Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize to Saturday and Sunday, respectively, giving each rookie an extra day of rest. One fun note that does not really mean much is that the Tigers will technically be the home team for this one, as it is a makeup game from earlier in the season.
Key matchup: Boyd vs. the long ball
As they did during the second half of last season, home runs have really hurt Boyd. He is currently allowing 2.34 dingers per nine innings which is very high even for his own career, and he enters Friday having allowed at least one long ball in five of his seven starts — the only run scored by the Twins against him last week came via a solo shot.
Obviously there are ways to be successful even with an elevated homer rate, but Boyd has simply not been sharp enough to be playing with this level of fire. Minnesota is not quite as prolific as 2019, but the Twins still rank 10th in home runs this season, so Boyd must be careful when taking the hill this afternoon. Using his changeup more heavily has made him less predictable in recent outings, and better results have followed, so let’s hope he’s got it working today.