MINNEAPOLIS -- Before Friday's game, Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire joked that Matthew Boyd could "throw with his other arm" if that's what it took for the Tigers to avoid turning to their bullpen early for a second straight night.
As it turns out, Boyd's left arm was good enough to take the burden off Detroit's relievers, but he wasn't quite sharp enough to carry the Tigers to victory as the Twins topped Detroit, 5-4, at Target Field. Boyd tossed 6 1/3 innings and dueled with Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson for much of the evening before running into trouble in the seventh inning.
"He threw the ball great," Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said of Boyd. "He feels pretty bad about the whole situation. … He did a fantastic job, it just got away a little bit there at the end."
The Tigers rolled into Minnesota on Thursday with an already depleted relief unit and were forced to use six relievers in a blowout loss. That left them with few options for Friday if Boyd struggled.
But the 27-year-old lefty was sharp from the get-go and retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. The only hit he allowed through the first five innings was Christopher Austin's single to lead off the fifth.
"My job is to take the ball," Boyd said. "What happens the days before and what not doesn't change that. I take the ball, I attack and I go until they pull me off the mound. It doesn't matter if we have the freshest bullpen, or guys who have been working hard the last few days. My approach doesn't change in that sense."
While Boyd was stymying the Twins' offense, Detroit racked up a 3-0 lead against Gibson. Niko Goodrum and Victor Martinez laced back-to-back run-scoring hits in the fourth, and Nicholas Castellanos plated Jeimer Candelario in the sixth.
Eddie Rosario trimmed that lead in the bottom of the sixth when he crushed a solo homer, and then Boyd's start unraveled in the seventh after his pitch count had creeped into the 90s. Austin smashed a one-out, solo homer that traveled an estimated 451 feet, according to Statcast™, and then Boyd gave up a single to Jake Cave and hit Johnny Field with a pitch. Gardenhire then turned to Louis Coleman to try to keep Detroit's lead intact; however, he surrendered the go-ahead, three-run homer to Joe Mauer, pinch-hitting for Ehire Adrianza.
Gardenhire would have preferred to bring on a left-hander in the situation, as it was apparent that Mauer would come on to hit if a righty entered the game for the Tigers.
"We didn't want [Coleman] to go against Mauer, but we knew were going to get Mauer, or [Max Kepler]," Gardenhire said. "They had two lefties on the bench, but we don't have a lefty. If you bring in a righty, you're gonna get Mauer or one of the other guys no matter what. We went with a sinker-baller, trying to get a ground ball. It just didn't work out."
Detroit made it a one-run ballgame in the ninth when Martinez laced a leadoff double and later scored on Ronny Rodriguez's loop single. Victor Reyes then came on to pinch hit, and grinded out a 13-pitch battle with Matt Magill that resulted in a walk.
"That was unbelievable for a young kid in that situation," Gardenhire said of Reyes. "I'm proud of these guys and proud of the way they're battling."
That forced the Twins to turn to left-hander Taylor Rogers, who got Candelario to ground out and end the game.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Reyes wins long battle: In the top of the ninth, Detroit's 23-year-old outfielder, Reyes, came on to pinch hit with the game on the line and delivered one of his best at-bats of the season. Reyes won a 13-pitch battle against Matt Magill that ended in a walk and kept Detroit's hopes of staging a comeback win alive. Magill threw exclusively fastballs -- mixing in his four-seamer and two-seamer and topping out at 95.7 mph. But Reyes fouled off eight straight pitches before finally watching ball four go by.
"That was a great battle," Reyes said. "[Magill] did a great job, too. He made great pitches. You just try to do your best and put that bat on every ball around the plate."
Matt Boyd has been a front-line starter for the Tigers when pitching at Comerica Park this season, posting a 2.80 ERA and striking out 51 batters in 11 starts. But when on the road, Boyd has struggled to keep the ball in the yard, which has partially contributed to the drastic difference in his road-home splits.
In home starts this year, Boyd has given up five homers in 64 1/3 innings. On the road, though, he has allowed 11 long balls in 70 2/3 innings and has a 5.60 ERA in road starts.
The Tigers will match up with the Twins for the third game in a four-game set Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Target Field. Ryan Carpenter will get the start for Detroit, making his first Major League appearance since May 31, when he tossed four innings against the Angels but sustained an oblique injury that sidelined him until mid-July. The 27-year-old lefty is 2-8 with a 5.30 ERA in 13 starts with Triple-A Toledo this season. Minnesota will counter with rookie right-hander Kohl Stewart (0-1, 6.23 ERA).