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Boyd K's 11 on a big night for Tigers' bats

Lefty minimizes damage despite giving up four homers to Twins
@beckjason
September 1, 2019

DETROIT -- A day before Matthew Boyd took the mound in a rematch against the Twins, the Tigers' left-hander talked about making adjustments and growing as a pitcher in a philosophical sense, step by step. “Every game, every pitch, there's stuff going on,” he said on Friday. “There's storms of

DETROIT -- A day before Matthew Boyd took the mound in a rematch against the Twins, the Tigers' left-hander talked about making adjustments and growing as a pitcher in a philosophical sense, step by step.

“Every game, every pitch, there's stuff going on,” he said on Friday. “There's storms of every variety. Whether you're coming down the mountain or a hole in the mound or the umpire not calling a pitch, you just make the adjustment to the next pitch.”

The flurry of home runs that followed on Saturday night at Comerica Park was historic -- for both the Twins and for Boyd -- as Minnesota eclipsed the MLB single-season team home run record set by the Yankees last season.

“They set the record. That's just what they do,” Boyd said. “They kind of lean on that.”

Saturday was more than a lean. With each swing for the fences, the Twins sent a battering ram at the early lead the Tigers had built. The difference in the Tigers’ 10-7 win, beyond the seven-run third inning Detroit posted on Minnesota starter Martin Perez, was the Twins that were kept off the basepaths as the home runs sailed out.

Box score

The last time the Tigers gave up six home runs in a game and won, Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio hit two of them. It was June 23, 1950, and the Tigers were playing at what was then known as Briggs Stadium, where they pulled out a 10-9 win over the Yankees.

With six homers Saturday, the Twins set their new home run record with a month in the season to spare. But with five of those homers being solo shots, the Tigers got a badly needed victory.

“That was probably the most intense four-run game I’ve ever been in, including playoffs,” said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, noting the margin in an eighth-inning jam. “With those guys coming up to the plate, the way they’re swinging, they get a guy or two on and all you’re thinking is that they’re one more man on base away from tying this up.

“It was intense in the dugout. It was one of those laughing kind of intensities. We were laughing through it. And that’s not fun. But it’s a great win for our ballclub.”

Not since Philadelphia’s Art Mahaffey went the distance against the Mets on Aug. 2, 1962, had a pitcher allowed four homers and struck out 11 batters in the same game for a win. Only one other pitcher had done it since 1908, according to research on baseball-reference.

Six days after two Twins homers accounted for five runs in a seven-run outing in Minnesota thanks to extra walks, Boyd gave up four homers to the same club in its long-ball outburst on Saturday. But with just two singles and a walk aside from that, he survived with five runs over six innings.

That’s the kind of rare dichotomy Boyd has going this season. He cannot shake the home run bug; his second four-homer game this month pushed him past Justin Verlander and Mike Leake for the Major League lead with 36 dingers allowed this season, and he’s on track to join Jack Morris (1986) and Denny McLain (1966) as the only Detroit pitchers to yield 40 homers in a season.

Yet Boyd’s combination of high fastballs and sharp sliders continues to rack up strikeouts, accounting for 11 of his 18 outs on Saturday. His 219 strikeouts are already the most in a season in the Comerica Park era (since 2000) by a Tiger not named Verlander or Max Scherzer, and the most by a Detroit left-hander since Mickey Lolich fanned 250 batters in 1972.

The runners on base for the home runs are what separate Boyd’s good outings from the not-so-good ones, regardless of game result. With a big lead on Saturday, he pitched aggressively and took his chances, throwing 75 of 110 pitches for strikes.

All four home runs off Boyd came on fastballs, including the one to Mitch Garver on the third pitch of the game. But so did eight of Boyd’s 14 swinging strikes, and nine of his 19 called strikes.

“Solos can’t beat you,” Boyd said. “They didn’t tonight. You just attack one pitch at a time.”

When Boyd struck out the side in order in the fourth inning -- Miguel Sano and C.J. Cron chasing fastballs, Ehire Adrianza taking a slider -- it was the perfect shutdown inning after the Tigers put up eight consecutive baserunners to chase Perez in the third. In contrast to the Twins, the only homer in the Tigers’ rally was a two-run drive from Ronny Rodriguez, who hit another in the sixth.

Though Jorge Polanco’s two-run homer in the fifth inning and Cron’s sixth-inning solo homer drew the Twins closer, neither ignited a big inning. That came later.

Once Nelson Cruz sent a Buck Farmer 0-2 pitch into the top row of shrubs in center field to lead off the eighth, the Twins tied the Major League team record for home runs in a season with 267, the mark they then passed when Garver hit Joe Jimenez’s first pitch out to lead off the ninth.

“It's still August and they set the record, right? It's kinda crazy,” Boyd said. “It's good for them. Different game, the way the game is right now, and that's just the way they go.”

But the difference came down to a bases-loaded, two-out opportunity for the Twins in the eighth. Luis Arraez stepped to the plate as the potential tying run against Jose Cisnero, who ran the count full before dropping a slider on the inside corner for a called third strike to end the threat.

“When he let it go, I was like … well, I can’t tell you,” Gardenhire said of Cisnero’s slider. “It scared the crap out of me, let me put it that way.”

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