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Detroit vs. Toronto Preview: Matt Boyd returns for rubber match

The Tigers split the first two of the series and Matthew Boyd returns to face his old team to take Game 3.

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It has been a thrilling series so far between the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays this weekend, with the two splitting a pair of closely-contested pitcher’s duels including a 3-2 extra-inning loss on Saturday night to knot things up. The matchups on the mound have been heavily in the visiting team’s favor but the good guys have found a way to grind out the games.

Yesterday, the Tigers saw the return of José Ureña from the injured list after nearly six weeks on the sidelines and today they get more reinforcements from another starter who has been shelved for a bit. Meanwhile, the Jays continue to send quality starters to the mound to try and steal the series on the road. Here is what we have to look forward to this afternoon.

Detroit Tigers (62-68) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (67-61)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Bluebird Banter
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (3-6, 3.44 ERA) vs. RHP José Berríos (8-7, 3.70 ERA)

Game 131 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Boyd 70.2 18.8 6.4 3.75 1.6
Berríos 146.0 25.0 6.6 3.66 2.7

The last time Matthew Boyd took the bump for the Tigers was way back on June 14 against the Kansas City Royals when he tossed 2 13 scoreless innings, allowing five hits while striking out two and walking none before being removed from the game with arm discomfort. As it turned out, he had a triceps injury in his pitching arm that kept him out for longer than initially expected. However, up to that point, the 30-year-old had put together a solid campaign thanks to a change from a strikeout to pitch-to-contact philosophy that greatly benefitted him.

Before the injury, the southpaw put up a 3.44 ERA with 19 walks and 56 strikeouts over 70⅔ innings in 13 starts — one of the best stretches of pitching in his major league career. On Sunday, Boyd returns from his Toledo stint where he threw 9 13 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in three rehab starts. His most recent outing came on Tuesday when the veteran allowed just a single bloop hit while striking out six in 4 1/3 innings. He gets a chance to score his first win against his old team, against whom he is 0-2 with a 4.46 ERA in six career starts.

Detroit’s starter will have some stiff competition in the form of José Berríos, who has had a fine season himself, though he has stumbled a bit since being traded from the Minnesota Twins at the deadline. Strikeouts are high, walks are low, his ERA and FIP almost perfectly agree, and he carries a sparkling 1.14 WHIP. However, the 27-year-old’s numbers inflated a bit after he crossed the border, putting up a 4.81 ERA, 4.07 FIP and a bloated 1.64 WHIP in 24 13 innings (five starts) with the bluebirds. Another big difference: he gave up seven hits per nine innings in Minnesota and is now surrendering 11.8 in Toronto. Ouch.

The right-hander has faced the Tigers twice this season — both times with the Twinkies — and has been mostly average against the Old English D. On May 8, he tossed six innings of two-run ball, surrendering six hits and five walks while striking out just one in the losing effort; his second start on July 11 saw his team win a wild one after handing over four runs in seven innings on three hits and four walks while striking out eight. These two contrasting results plus Berríos’ struggles up north leave the door open for any possible outcome today.

Key Matchup: Offense vs. Berríos

Toronto’s starter has been good this season — just not so much with them — but the Tigers have not exactly struggled against him either. With the uncertainty that Boyd’s return presents, it would behoove the Tigers to pile on the runs if they can to give their returning starter a boost. You heard it here: I am invoking the seven-run rule. If Detroit can score a seven-spot today, rest assured that the series win is in the bag.