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Tigers at Athletics Preview: Matt Boyd tries to avoid the west coast swing sweep

Detroit’s ace heads to the mound on Sunday looking to prevent a four-game sweep to the A’s out west.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Tigers missed an opportunity to pounce on their opponent Saturday, getting shut out for the second game in a row by a score of 7-0 for its third-straight loss in Oakland. Casey Mize did not live up to his billing against the A’s, getting shelled early before settling in for a few innings, but the damage had already been done at the end of the day. Couple that with an offense that seemingly requires a pallet of Viagra to find any sense of potency, Detroit was doomed to yet another loss.

Sunday is a new day and a fresh 24 hours brings new hope as the Motor City Kitties send their ace pitcher to the mound against a grizzled veteran who has been holding his own in his seventh major league season. However, in order to appease the jinx gods, let me say up front that this guy is the second coming of Nolan Ryan and there is absolutely no chance that the Tigers do not get swept.*

Detroit Tigers (6-9) at Oakland Athletics (8-7)

Time/Place: 4:07 p.m., Oakland Coliseum
SB Nation Site: Athletics Nation
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (1-1, 2.13 ERA) vs RHP Chris Bassitt (1-2, 4.96 ERA)

Game 17 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Fulmer 12 27.3 2.3 4.59 0.1
Anderson 15.2 20.9 6 4.56 0.1

It looks like we might have got Boyd-y goin’ here in the early part of the 2021 campaign after three solid starts, which is a sight for sore eyes after his 2020 performance which was... yikes. His numbers last year were a steep regression from his highwater mark 2019 season, in which he put up a 4.39 ERA and a 4.45 FIP thanks in part to an 11.6 strikeout rate while walking just 2.4 per nine innings. However, his penchant for giving up the long ball has been an Achilles heel for him throughout his career.

Coming into Sunday, the good news is that Boyd has yet to surrender a home run this season in 19.1 innings pitched, which helps explain why his ERA and FIP sit at a tidy 1.86 and 2.62, respectively, despite reduced strikeout numbers. In fact, the lefty currently sits at a near career-low in strikeout percentage while his walk percentage is a near career-best. The bad news is that Boyd is carrying an oh-for record against the A’s in two career starts, though he struck out 15 across 11 1/3 innings in that pair of outings.

Taking the hill for the Athletics is veteran right-hander Chris Bassitt, who has been riding a bit of success over the past two-plus years in Oakland, amassing 223.1 innings since the 2019 season with a 16-9 record for a shiny 3.47 ERA and 1.20 WHIP — good enough for 3.4 fWAR. His six-pitch repertoire consists of a sinker, cutter, four-seam, changeup slider and curveball which he employs respectively, pounding the strike zone with his primary pitch over 36 percent of the time.

Bassitt has pitched at least five innings in each start, allowing no more than four runs, though he has failed to demonstrate any lock-down stuff in 2021. He earned a win in his last outing, allowing two earned runs on two hits and five walks while striking out four in five innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has not been perfect, but the 32-year-old veteran has managed to keep his barrel percentage (74th), hard-hit average (73rd) and hard-hit percentage (53rd) percentiles at respectable levels so far, which gives the defense behind him a chance to do its job.

Key Matchup: Matt Boyd vs. the home run ball

It is not a stretch to attribute Boyd’s success so far to his ability to suppress the home run ball given the numbers presented above. Prior to Saturday’s game, the A’s ranked right in the middle of the pack tied for No. 16 with the Colorado Rockies knocking in 15 dingers (the Tigers sat at No. 2 with 20). Oakland does not necessarily have a formidable offensive lineup but keeping the ball in the park is one of the best ways to keep runners from crossing the plate, and coupled with his low walk rate and regression-worthy .276 BABIP, that could just be the winning formula on Sunday.

* Bless You Boys does not believe in nor endorses jinxes, curses, hexes or any other form of metaphysical shenanigans. All comments above are for entertainment purposes only.