KANSAS CITY -- The last time the Tigers won a series, they were within one game of .500. The last time Matthew Boyd won a start, he was a .500 pitcher with a 3.20 ERA who was drawing scouts' attention as a potentially sneaky pickup at Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.The
KANSAS CITY -- The last time the Tigers won a series, they were within one game of .500. The last time Matthew Boyd won a start, he was a .500 pitcher with a 3.20 ERA who was drawing scouts' attention as a potentially sneaky pickup at Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The six or so weeks since then have served as a reminder that this is still a rebuilding team, and Boyd is still a pitcher in progress amidst his first full season in a big league rotation. Yet as the Tigers readied to head to the airport from Kauffman Stadium, having taken the rubber match of their three-game set against the Royals with an 8-4 victory on Wednesday afternoon, they had a badly needed reminder that progress sometimes comes in doses -- and that they're not the only rebuilding team in the American League Central.
"We've played a lot of really good series. We just haven't been able to win a series," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "To come and win a series is really huge. We're going right back home, and hopefully we'll play better baseball at home. We've played a lot of really good teams. It was important to win here and get yourself set up with a little confidence."
Boyd has had a test in confidence over the last month and a half. A short-porch grand slam by Joey Votto in Cincinnati sent the left-hander on a seven-start winless streak that included five losses, including a hard-luck 1-0 defeat to the Red Sox on Friday coming out of the All-Star break. He held down a difficult Boston lineup, but he had no result to show for five innings of one-run ball.
Boyd hasn't had much success in his career at Kauffman Stadium, albeit facing a lineup with several hitters who aren't here anymore. He hasn't had much success away from Detroit in general this season, with a 1-6 record and 5.77 ERA outside of Comerica Park entering Wednesday, something that teams had to consider as they pondered starting-pitching options on the trade market over the last few weeks.
"It's just focusing on the process," Boyd said. "It's not really getting too caught up in the results, knowing what brings you success, knowing what happened today and looking at it with a lab coat on, very objectively, and learning how you can get better just going out there and sticking with what your strengths are."
Boyd (5-9) gave up a pair of RBI doubles to left-handed hitters on Wednesday. One was a gapper from Alex Gordon, who rarely hits him. The other was an opposite-field liner from Mike Moustakas, who has hit Boyd well. Other than that, Boyd allowed a handful of soft singles and barely any solid contact, while inducing eight swinging strikes off his slider -- three of them for strikeouts -- and a pair of called third strikes off his curveball.
"It was definitely a little bigger, especially early in the game," catcher John Hicks said of the slider. "There were times when we were trying to go backdoor to righties, and it was moving so much that it almost ended up being a back-foot slider to them."
Boyd set up his breaking stuff more effectively with his fastball, pounding the strike zone with a pitch that topped out just shy of 95 mph.
"We did a good job of establishing the heater," Boyd said, "and I think that opened it up a little better for us."
Boyd allowed two runs on seven hits, while walking none and striking out seven. He picked up his first win against an AL Central foe since his no-hit bid against the White Sox last September.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Iggy pop: The Tigers roughed up Royals starter Danny Duffy for seven runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings, but none were bigger than Jose Iglesias' three-run homer in a four-run fourth inning. With Duffy flustered following a run-scoring wild pitch and a JaCoby Jones single, Iglesias jumped a first-pitch fastball and drove it a projected 371 feet, according to Statcast™, to left for his second homer since the All-Star break and a 5-1 lead.
"I was looking for a fastball, and I got that pitch," said Iglesias, who has three extra-base hits and seven RBIs since the All-Star break as trade rumors surround the slick-fielding shortstop. "I was able to put a pretty good swing on it and hit it out."
Victor Martinez's three-hit game on Wednesday included a pair of RBI singles. He finished 6-for-12 in the series after breaking out of a 1-for-23 slump from July 10-21. His 140 career RBIs against the Royals are second-most all time, behind only former White Sox great Paul Konerko (150).
HE SAID IT
"I'm really, really proud of the way these guys have been playing. There's no giving up. Everybody's fighting. It's pretty easy when you're down, 7-1, 7-0, 8-2, to throw an at-bat away. Everybody has been working their butt off, and it shows." -- Martinez
Following an off-day on Thursday, right-hander Mike Fiers (7-6, 3.49 ERA) will make what could be his final start for the Tigers ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline when he faces Indians righty Carlos Carrasco (12-5, 4.03 ERA) at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Comerica Park.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.