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Six of the final 12 games for the Royals are against the Tigers, so these two teams are about to get pretty cozy.
The Detroit Tigers are definitely better than people expected them to be. A lot of that came from them hitting a ton of home runs early in the season, but after hitting 15 home runs in their first seven games of the season (and really not doing much else offensively), they’ve hit just 39 in their last 39 games, including just 11 in 14 September games. And they’re 4-10 now in September, so that sort of tracks for them. They’re 13-4 when they hit multiple home runs in a game and 7-22 when they hit 0 or 1. The Royals, while not a lot better, are 12-25 with 0 or 1 home runs, so the Tigers are especially bad. They’ve finally gotten the breakout from Jeimer Candelario, a guy I wanted from the Cubs in the Wade Davis deal, but the offense as a whole has been largely impatient, which as we know all too well in KC, leads to some big time ups and downs. The Tigers bullpen has been pretty awful once again, but they do have some promising young arms. And while we won’t see Casey Mize in this series, they are starting to get their young pitching talent into the rotation, so that’s fun for them at least.
Probable Pitching Matchups
Matthew Boyd takes the ball in the hopes of turning around an absolutely brutal season. It’s really more than a season actually. At the end of May last year, he had thrown 72.2 innings with a very respectable seven home runs allowed with 88 strikeouts and just 15 walks. He looked like a top of the rotation arm that could fetch some serious prospects in a trade the rebuilding Tigers needed to make. Since then, he’s made 29 starts with a 6.22 ERA and has allowed 45 home runs in 156.1 innings. He’s still getting a ton of strikeouts and limiting walks, but hitters are absolutely demolishing him. What pitch is causing all the trouble? Well, his curve that he throws 6.2 percent of the time isn’t, so there’s that. He’s allowed a .711 SLG on his fastball, .628 on his slider and .500 on his changeup. His slider and changeup are still getting tons of swings and misses, which make sense with the strikeouts, but he just leaves too many of all his pitches very hittable. I don’t know what the answer for him is, but whatever he’s doing isn’t working. He has been very good against lefties, holding them to a .161 average and just one home run. Righties, though, have hit .336/.402/.685, so I imagine the Royals will stack the lineup with righties in this one. He’s given up three home runs to lead off a game, he’s given up an .804 SLG with nobody on base and he’s allowed a 1.076 OPS the first time through the order. Find a split, it probably makes him look bad because, well, he is.
Jakob Junis gets this start in place of Danny Duffy. Duffy, of course, missed the team flight to Detroit and is sitting out this start for disciplinary reasons. The most logical turn is to Junis who last pitched on September 8 and was being skipped in this turn through the rotation anyway, so he should be good to go. The problem is that he was being skipped for good reason as he just hasn’t been good. He’s made five starts and hasn’t finished the fifth in any of them. He’s struck out more than three just once. He allowed three home runs in that last start on September 8. Up until that game last week, he hadn’t been truly bad yet, but for a guy on the verge of having to fight off about a million young arms, this was a bad year to follow up his worst year with. On the bright side, he’s 8-1 with a 3.36 ERA in his career against the Tigers with 63 strikeouts and just 11 walks in 75 innings. So at least there’s that.
The Royals get their first look at one of the Tigers best pitching prospects in Tarik Skubal. The big lefty posted a 2.42 ERA in 24 starts between high-A and AA last season and looked good in summer camp. His fastball averages 94-95 MPH and can be a very good pitch and he’s thrown it 61 percent of the time. Part of why he’s had some struggles when he has are that the fastball has given him trouble with three home runs allowed on it. He really struggled in his last start, walking four in two innings and giving up six earned runs. When he’s struggled, it’s that he’s just had a tough time putting hitters away and getting out of innings. As an example, he gave up just one run in his second start and struck out five in 2.1 innings, but he threw 69 pitches. I have a hunch his slider is going to give the Royals troubles in this one and he’s going to pick up a few strikeouts. The question is if he can keep the pitch count down enough to get deep enough into the game that the Tigers can bypass the rough part of their bullpen.
Brady Singer is coming off the obviously best start of his young career, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning before losing it with two outs. He’s thrown just 11 total changeups in his last four starts, so it seems like he’s backed off trying to work that into his repertoire. Sometimes, when the fastball looks as good as it did against the Indians on Thursday, it works. Other times, like when he gave up nine hits in 16 at bats on it against the White Sox, it just doesn’t. It’s a good sign that he hasn’t given up a home run in either of his last two starts, and with the Tigers struggles with working the count and subsequently walks, he could have a good outing if the life on his fastball and slider are anywhere close to what we saw last time out. His first time facing the Tigers in July was interesting as he didn’t get a single swing and miss on that slider, but he still got the job done, allowing two runs (on two homers) in five innings. I feel like he’s pitching differently now and the Tigers offense is hitting differently, so this could be a pretty decent outing for him if he has any semblance of command.
The Royals are playing fantastic baseball and the Tigers are really struggling right now. In an odd parallel, the Tigers had a six-game winning streak that ended after an 11-run victory, so it could be that the Royals are about to go the way of the Tigers. The Tigers are 3-10 since then with a -48 run differential. Yes, that’s right. They’re losing by an average of almost four runs per game. That’s pretty impressive. I like the pitching matchups and I’m probably going to regret this, but I think the Royals take both games and get their winning streak to eight.