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Homers continue to haunt Boyd in loss to Yanks

@beckjason
September 12, 2019

DETROIT -- The first-inning drive from Luke Voit kept carrying through the overcast sky around Comerica Park, leaving fans on the center-field concourse incredulous as the 449-foot home run landed in the second row of shrubs. By contrast, the third-inning drive from Edwin Encarnacion barely gave anybody time to react,

DETROIT -- The first-inning drive from Luke Voit kept carrying through the overcast sky around Comerica Park, leaving fans on the center-field concourse incredulous as the 449-foot home run landed in the second row of shrubs. By contrast, the third-inning drive from Edwin Encarnacion barely gave anybody time to react, screaming down the left-field line with a 106.8-mph exit velocity.

They counted the same on Matthew Boyd's pitching line, both two-run homers, in the Yankees' 10-4 win over the Tigers to open Thursday's doubleheader. But they also were the expected outcome of a clash between a team setting single-season records for home runs and a pitcher who is threatening the Tigers' franchise record for homers allowed in a season.

Box score

Take away the two homers, and Boyd pitched well against the high-powered Yankees offense, allowing one other hit over five innings. Take away two infield errors ahead of Voit's home run, and the Yankees' first baseman doesn't get a chance to hurt Boyd in the first. Nevertheless, it hits at the core of Boyd's second-half struggles: The big fly is hounding him.

"Obviously, I can be more efficient, but we held them pretty good," Boyd said. "Unfortunately the difference in the game was the home runs. If those four runs don't score, it's probably a different ballgame. So it's on me there."

Boyd had won his previous two starts in opposing fashions: The lefty overcame four Twins home runs with 11 strikeouts over six innings two weeks ago, then held the Royals homerless despite a season-high 10 hits allowed over 6 1/3 quality innings last Thursday in Kansas City. In the latter, Boyd used his changeup to keep Royals hitters off-balance after they tagged him for three homers a month earlier in Detroit.

Boyd threw 10 changeups among his 94 pitches last week Kauffman Stadium, as catcher Grayson Greiner tried adamantly to work Boyd's offspeed into the arsenal. Boyd's first changeup to a Yankees hitter on Thursday was his 49th pitch of the afternoon, 15 batters in. His first four dozen pitches to rookie catcher Jake Rogers were almost exclusively fastballs and sliders, the combination that served him well for most of the first half and has set up many of his strikeouts even amidst his home-run struggles.

"[Boyd] and the catcher didn't do very well together. That's my biggest disappointment," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The game took forever. Boyd was real slow, a lot of shaking [off signs]. We'll have to make an adjustment there. They just weren't on the same page."

Both home runs Thursday came off fastballs. Voit essentially golfed one out after Boyd missed low with a first-pitch slider, punishing Boyd after Dawel Lugo's error on an Aaron Judge hard-hit grounder extended the inning. Encarnacion, by contrast, wasn't fooled when Boyd came up and in with a fastball for a third consecutive pitch after a two-out walk to Judge extended the third inning.

"Up and in is where we go [with Encarnacion], but it wasn't a smart pitch-calling on my part," Boyd said. "I tripled up a fastball in to a very professional hitter. That was just not smart. I executed the pitch I threw, but that was a situation where I should've thought something different. I just wasn't thinking clearly on that one."

With those two homers, Boyd retook the Major League lead with 38. With likely three starts left this season, he's almost certain to become the first Tigers pitcher with a 40-homer season since Hall of Famer Jack Morris in 1986. Boyd could also threaten Denny McLain's franchise record of 42 home runs allowed, set in 1966.

Morris allowed his 40 homers over 267 innings, after which he yielded 39 homers off 266 innings the next season. McLain's 42 homers were spread out over 264 1/3 innings. Boyd, by contrast, sits at 176 1/3 innings. Even in a historic season for home runs across baseball, it's a concern for the Tigers as they look toward Boyd potentially anchoring their rotation next year.

Boyd struck out just three Yankees on Thursday while walking four, one off his season high. Once he left, New York pulled away with three runs each off rookie Bryan Garcia and Matt Hall.

If this were last year, the Tigers might have kept up against Yankees starter J.A. Happ, an opponent they hit for 16 runs in three starts last season. The lefty entered the game with a 5.25 ERA for his career against Detroit, but held the Tigers scoreless until Lugo’s two-run homer with two outs in the fifth. Travis Demeritte added an eighth-inning solo homer.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.