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Detroit vs. Tampa Preview: Get ready for a lot of Rays

Matthew Boyd takes the hill looking to shake off some rust.

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Detroit Tigers v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

If there was one team that clubs would be wanting to avoid as the season winds down it would be the AL-leading Tampa Bay Rays. Despite competing against three other playoff hopefuls, the Rays have a huge lead in the AL East and are clearly the ones to beat in October. Although the team from Tampa holds just a .500 record over the last eight games, this is not a team Detroit is happy to see.

That is unfortunate, as not only are the Rays coming to town for a weekend series, but the two squads will meet for more times starting next Thursday in Tampa. Best of luck to everyone wearing the Old English D!

One Tiger who probably is not too excited for this matchup is Friday’s starter Matthew Boyd. The 30-year-old has made a pair of unimpressive starts after missing two and a half months on the injured list and could be pitching for his fate with the team. The ceiling on Boyd is lower than it used to be, but it would be nice to see him finish the year well.

Detroit Tigers (66-75) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (88-52)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: DRays Bay
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (3-8, 3.89 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (3-4, 5.54 ERA)

Game 100 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Alexander 33.1 12.9 5.7 4.32 0.2
Kikuchi 65.0 25.1 13.9 5.81 -0.5

The Rays have some quality arms in their rotation, but it would be tough to call Michael Wacha one of them. The former Cardinals first-rounder has has really fallen off as of late, posting a 4.76 ERA in 2019, a terrible 6.62 ERA across 34 innings last season, and now sits at 5.54 heading into the final month of his one-year deal with Tampa.

Wacha has really been roughed up this season, as evidenced by his batted ball numbers. For the first time in his career, hitters are averaging a 90 mph exit velocity and a barrel rate over 10.0 percent (10.6), resulting in a 43.4 percent hard-hit rate. At under a strikeout per inning, this is not a formula that is going to find much success.

The last two outings have been slightly better for Wacha, but he did have a three-start stretch in early August that featured six, five, and seven earned runs in consecutive outings. Maybe the Tigers can take advantage of one of the clear weak links in the Tampa rotation.

Key matchup: Boyd vs. the future

With Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and likely Matt Manning here to stay, there really are not a ton of rotation openings for the Tigers starting in 2022. After acting as the de facto ace for a couple seasons, it now looks like Boyd could potentially be on the outside looking in as his price tag jumps in his final year of arbitration. Overall he has had a decent year, and there is always opportunity in the bullpen, but the remaining of the season is going to be a big audition for the lefty.