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Tigers at Brewers Preview: Matthew Boyd leads the way looking for a series split

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Boyd has struggled his last few outings, but has a good chance to rebound on Tuesday.

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

That was quite a month of May for our Detroit Tigers. After looking bombed out and depleted through most of April and early May, they’ve turned things around in a big way, putting together a 14-13 record for the month. While still last in the AL Central after Minnesota won on Sunday, they’ve done enough to leverage themselves out of the leaguewide basement. Making up for April was a long climb, but if they can put together another month like May, they could find themselves in respectable territory for the first time in years.

Baby steps. For now, we’ll look for a series split with the Brewers on Tuesday.

For some, Matthew Boyd’s last three starts are just indicative of his usual pattern of starting strong in the cool weather months, and then falling apart in warmer weather. The stats somewhat bear that out, though his Jekyll and Hyde routine in 2019 made the point vivid enough to remain somewhat overstated. By FIP, June and August are the two worst months for him historically, April and July are the best. Still, that’s pretty spare as analysis goes.

Certainly, Boyd’s recent outings raise some red flags. It was predictable that he wasn’t going to hold up as one of the top starters in the game, but his history, and three straight bad outings, require some rebuttal by the man himself if he’s going to keep the fanbase onboard this time. Still, Boyd’s issue the past few years has been home runs and nothing else. That hasn’t been a problem this year at all, even over his poor recent starts. He allowed only two home runs over those three outings.

So, some regression was to be expected, particularly in batted ball luck, and that’s what we’ve seen. Personally, until we see the home runs flying out two per start for a bit, I’m still going to have some faith that Boyd has the problem under better control via Chris Fetter’s gameplanning, and the heavier use of his changeup as a change of pace, and will continue to put up solid efforts. The relatively small confines of American Family Field will put that to the test on Tuesday night.

Detroit Tigers (22-32) at Milwaukee Brewers (29-25)

Time/Place: 7:40 p.m., American Family Field
SB Nation Site: Brew Crew Ball
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (2-6, 3.43 ERA) vs. LHP Eric Lauer (1-1, 2.45 ERA)

Game 55 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Pitcher IP FIP K% BB% HR/9 fWAR
Lauer 22.0 4.48 25.0 3.4 2.05 0.1
Boyd 57.2 3.20 19.7 6.3 0.47 1.5

Left-hander Eric Lauer came to Milwaukee from the San Diego Padres in the deal that also brought them Luis Urias. Through parts of four seasons, he’s established a reputation as solid backend starter. He allows a lot of hard contact, but hasn’t quite had the home run trouble that Boyd has. Otherwise their performance in recent years has been fairly similar.

Lauer is a solidly built, six-foot, three-inch southpaw who typically throws 92-93 mph with his fourseam fastball. His best secondary is a cutter around 90 mph, and he’ll use an 80 mph slider and 86-87 mph changeup as well. He doesn’t throw that high a ratio of first pitch strikes, but he’s also rarely wild and can wreak havoc with lineups by his ability to spot all four pitches on either side of the plate.

As Lauer has moved away from heavier fastball usage with the Brewers, the deeper pitch mix has produced more whiffs. That’s their organizational M.O., and we’re seeing it pay dividends for Lauer this year. Correspondingly, his swinging strike rates have jumped several points since his time with the Padres, and he’s currently posting the highest rate of his career at 11.7 percent. Yes, he’s not overpowering, but he’s a crafty left-hander with a solid mix of quality pitches and good command.

Key Matchup: Tigers hitters vs. the eternal crafty southpaw

The Tigers remain the worst team in baseball against left-handed pitching. There’s nothing at all nice about their 69 wRC+, and an OBP of just .289 is fairly miserable as well. The real telltale issue, however, is power, or the lack thereof. Most of the Tigers’ numerous switch hitters put up solid averages and on base percentages against lefties, historically, but the power for guys like Jeimer Candelario, Robbie Grossman, Niko Goodrum, and Willi Castro comes from their left-handed swings. With Miguel Cabrera absolutely lost at the plate, the Tigers are going to need some pop from a resurgent Jonathan Schoop or their catchers to land a big blow against Lauer in this one. Instead, look for a low scoring affair where Boyd and Lauer roughly match each other, before the bullpens decide the issue.