DETROIT -- Matthew Boyd and James McCann began preparing for their Memorial Day start together a few days ahead of time. Their prep work had very little to do with the Angels on the lineup card they were expecting for Monday.When Boyd knew he was on track to start Monday,
DETROIT -- Matthew Boyd and James McCann began preparing for their Memorial Day start together a few days ahead of time. Their prep work had very little to do with the Angels on the lineup card they were expecting for Monday.
When Boyd knew he was on track to start Monday, he wanted it to be about more than pitching at Comerica Park on a holiday afternoon. So he talked last week with Jordan Field, director of the Detroit Tigers Foundation, about how to honor those for whom the holiday is for.
"This day's about honoring those who have served their country and lost their life defending this country," Boyd said after Monday's 9-3 win, "defending our freedom so we can have liberties like playing baseball this day, worshipping our religions freely and being in an awesome country. I just didn't want that to be lost by the wayside. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for us. The least we can do is honor them."
Field got in touch with TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, and received names of local servicemembers who lost their lives over the past year.
"We got eight names of fallen soldiers from the area," McCann said.
Boyd and McCann took four names each, and wrote them on the special cleats they wore for Monday's game.
"I feel very blessed to be able to play a game for a living, and [for] the freedoms that we have here," McCann said. "The freedom to do that, and just being able to honor the fallen, the people that paid the ultimate sacrifice. One day doesn't seem like enough."
Boyd's family has a deep military background. His father, Kurt, went into the Navy as a teenager and served six years before attending the University of Washington. His grandfather, John, graduated from the Naval Academy. Matthew had eyes on playing baseball for Navy or West Point, but had to change his plans due to asthma.
"I'm the first male [in the family] not to serve in quite a long time," Boyd said. "I'm grateful for everything that everyone has done to serve and defend our country."
His baseball career continues to work out quite well. On Monday, he continued what is becoming a breakout season by shutting down a righty-heavy Angels offense, the kind of lineup -- including right-handed sluggers Michael Trout, Jose Pujols and former Tiger Justin Upton -- that would've taken its swings on him a year ago.
Though Boyd (3-4) had to work with a runner on base every inning, he held the Angels to a pair of singles and two runners in scoring position, overcoming three walks over five-plus scoreless frames.
Boyd earned 10 called strikes with a fastball that averaged just less than 89 mph. Two of them struck out Upton, traded by the Tigers to the Angels at the end of last August, before his leadoff walk in the sixth chased Boyd from the game. Fellow ex-Tiger Ian Kinsler flew out twice, while Boyd retired Trout three times in as many at-bats, fanning him on a 90-mph fastball with a runner on in the opening inning.
"It was a lot about how he got to those pitches," McCann said. "[Boyd] used his breaking balls, he used his slow stuff, to make his fastball play up. When a guy controls his offspeed stuff the way he did, I don't care how hard your fastball is. Whether he's throwing it 87 [mph] or he's throwing it 94, it's going to play up several miles an hour.
"You saw the emergency hacks. You saw guys getting blown away by a heater that most people wouldn't say is going to blow someone away. But he's able to slow guys down with his offspeed stuff. It's all about recognizing what the hitter's telling you."
Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs struggled to match, allowing four singles and two walks in his first 12 batters before falling behind on a 2-0 count to McCann with no place to put him in the third. McCann got a fastball over the plate and belted it with a 109.4 mph exit velocity, his hardest-hit home run of of the Statcast™ era, for his third career grand slam.
Leonys Martin added a seventh-inning solo homer off Akeel Morris before Victor Reyes tripled home his first Major League RBI, add-on runs that loomed larger once the Angels scored a pair of eighth-inning runs off Buck Farmer. Trout added a 438-foot drive toward the flagpole beyond left-center field for a solo homer -- his MLB-leading 18th of the season -- in the ninth off Warwick Saupold.
The Tigers have doubled in 44 consecutive games this season, the longest streak for the franchise since 1908.
HE SAID IT
"Stumpfer misfired a little bit, then he bumped me. I told them that's the only thing he hit all day. You always gotta have fun." -- Gardenhire, on lefty reliever Daniel Stumpf, who walked the only batter he faced on four pitches in the seventh
Michael Fulmer (2-3, 4.08 ERA) takes the mound against the Angels at Comerica Park looking for his first home win of the season as the four-game series continues Tuesday with a 7:10 p.m. ET game at Comerica Park. Fulmer tossed 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball in his last outing against the Twins on Wednesday, earning his first win since April 7. The Angels will counter with Nick Tropeano (2-3 3.86).
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.