A common theme for Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch this spring was hitters' plate discipline.
As the Tigers face off with the host Kansas City Royals in the rubber match of a three-game series on Wednesday, Hinch's emphasis appears to be producing results.
Detroit's strikeout rate has significantly declined. After whiffing more than 10 times per game through the end of April, the rate is down to 7.7 in May.
"There's been a concentrated effort by the players," Hinch said. "Early on we were a little hesitant as a team to control the strike zone, thinking we had to concede every first pitch. It doesn't mean you can't hit the first pitch right down the middle for an extra-base hit or a damage hit. I think our group as a whole has bought into when to be on the go and when to be patient."
Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson drew four walks on Monday, the most by a Tigers batter since J.D. Martinez had four against the Baltimore Orioles on May 16, 2017.
"After being the most aggressive hitter in the month of April swinging at the first pitch and still hitting the ball hard when he does swing, that's great progress," Hinch said.
The slight downside to the manager's optimism regarding offensive selectiveness is the fact his hitters struck out 12 times in each of the first two games of the current series, an 8-5, 10-inning Detroit win on Monday and a 4-1 Kansas City victory on Tuesday.
Royals right-hander Zack Greinke (1-5, 4.82 ERA) will look to add more whiffs when he goes up against Detroit on Wednesday. Left-hander Matthew Boyd (3-3, 6.21) will start for the Tigers.
In 32 career games (29 starts) vs. Detroit, Greinke is 13-8 with a 2.84 ERA. He was winless in two starts against the Tigers last year and hasn't beaten them since 2012.
Miguel Cabrera has enjoyed some success against Greinke, producing a .302 average and one home run in 43 at-bats.
Boyd owns a 7-11 mark and 5.44 ERA in 27 appearances (26 starts) against the Royals, the opponent he has faced more than any other. He last started against Kansas City on June 14, 2021, and he hasn't beaten the Royals since his final start of 2020.
Salvador Perez has the most experience against Boyd of the Royals' hitters, batting .239 with two homers in 46 at-bats.
Greinke will attempt to provide some length to assist a tired relief corps that has handled three bullpen games over the past 11 contests.
Kansas City sent its 10th different starting pitcher to the mound Tuesday when Mike Mayers made his 200th career pitching appearance but just his seventh career start. Among American League teams, only the Tampa Bay Rays have used more starters (11).
The club has just one win from a starter since Brad Keller beat the Chicago White Sox on May 10, contributing to Kansas City's 3-8 slump.
Royals relievers have 16 blown-lead losses -- tied for the second most in the majors -- including eight blown-lead defeats this month.
The beleaguered Kansas City staff may soon get help from left-hander Daniel Lynch, who threw 61 pitches in six shutout innings for Triple-A Omaha against Saint Paul on Tuesday. Lynch, who sustained a left shoulder strain on March 23, has made five rehab starts, four with Omaha, going 2-0 with a 3.98 ERA.
"Everything's progressing like we would hope," Kansas City manager Matt Quatraro said. "We gotta be sure he comes in (Wednesday) and he feels good, and then we'll try to come up with a plan."
--Field Level Media