Boyd's 10 K's make Tigers history in loss to KC

Lefty laments season-high 4 walks, including 3 in pivotal 6th

July 14th, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- 's 109th pitch in Saturday night’s 4-1 loss to the Royals was a 93-mph fastball past Adalberto Mondesi to end the seventh inning with a strikeout. It was Boyd’s 10th of the evening and it landed the left-hander in select company in Tigers history.

Not since Justin Verlander in 2009 had a Detroit pitcher put up double-digit strikeouts in three consecutive starts. Not since Mickey Lolich in 1971 had a lefty done it; he had two such streaks that season and another in 1964. Denny McLain did it in his 31-win season of 1968, as had Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser in 1946.

“Matty’s doing his thing,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s giving us a chance pretty much every outing. He spins the ball. He’s got a great changeup. He reads hitters really well. He does all those things really good.”

As Boyd walked off the mound at Kauffman Stadium, he wasn’t concerned about the strikeouts, or the scouts on hand to witness it as the days dwindle toward the Trade Deadline. He was instead haunted by the season-high four walks, three of them in a two-run sixth inning that ultimately sent the Tigers toward their fifth consecutive defeat.

“It’s really the only thing that hurt me,” Boyd said. “That’s self-inflicted. Three of them came around to score. That was the difference in the game.”

Though Boyd (6-7) notes that success isn’t measured in a box score, he pitches to win games, not set records, even as the Tigers’ struggles leave him with very little room to do the former. Detroit is now tied with Baltimore for fewest wins in the Majors at 28.

“It’s going to turn for us as a team,” Boyd said. “We’re going to get more in that win column as we go along, there’s no doubt about that.”

Boyd pitches like someone who wants to see the rebuild through, even as the Tigers’ situation makes it increasingly likely that he won’t. Whether general manager Al Avila trades Boyd this month with the Deadline looming on July 31 could depend more on the hitting prospects Avila can extract from interested teams.

Among the teams with scouts on hand were the Rays and Braves, both supposedly interested in Boyd. If any of the scouts wanted to hit the town on a gorgeous summer evening and left the ballpark after four innings, they would’ve walked out with glowing reviews on Boyd. Not only had he shut down the Royals -- retiring 11 consecutive batters after Whit Merrifield’s leadoff single -- but he’d struck out seven, many swinging at sliders, a pitch responsible for 10 of his 19 swings and misses.

Boyd took the mound for the fifth inning at 48 pitches and a 1-0 lead in a duel with Royals starter Brad Keller. But from the first pitch of the inning, a Hunter Dozier double off the left-field wall, Kansas City had a better approach, possibly helped by the sun setting and shadows abating, and Boyd had trouble. Boyd retired just three of the next nine batters. Four reached on walks; three of them scored.

“I came out of my delivery for a few innings there, just a little out of whack,” Boyd said. “I got back to it, but walks hurt you. It hasn’t really been an issue so far [this season], but it was an issue today and it cost us the game. That’s on me.”

While neither of the back-to-back RBI singles from Bubba Starling and Nicky Lopez were particularly hard hit to put the Royals on top in the fifth, they were aggressive swings early in counts. Jeimer Candelario’s slick double play from his knees at third prevented further damage in the inning, but a leadoff walk from Merrifield put Boyd back on his heels in the sixth.

Merrifield was one of three Royals to reach full counts on Boyd in the sixth. Merrifield fouled off a slider over the plate before shrugging at a changeup off the corner. Alex Gordon, having fouled off a 2-2 high fastball, didn’t chase the low fastball and slider that followed. Jorge Soler had a 3-0 count before taking two fastballs for strikes and fouling off another, but he didn’t chase the slider.

“I’m never going for strikeouts,” Boyd said. “Strikeouts just come through setting up a guy, if you happen to get to 0-2, 1-2, and you make your pitch. They come about by attacking and executing pitches. It’s even better if they swing at the first few pitches. I was just a little bit out of sync. I kind of collapsing, was aware of it, was trying to make the adjustment. I did eventually, but I just missed.”

Soler's two-out pass extended the sixth inning for Cheslor Cuthbert’s bouncer through the left side for a two-run single. It was a ball with a .240 expected batting average, according to Statcast, but it carried more importance thanks to extra baserunners.

Boyd stayed in for two more strikeouts in the seventh to reach double digits, but he suffered the loss. Keller, meanwhile, held the Tigers to a run on four hits over eight innings.

“He gave us a great opportunity,” Gardenhire said of Boyd. “The thing we’ve talked about with him is we’re not giving him great run support, so he has to be so perfect. And it seems to go with a lot of our pitchers right now.”