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Boyd, bats make powerful statement in G1

@beckjason
August 29, 2020

DETROIT -- The first inning looked like a threat for Matthew Boyd on Saturday, a solidly struck leadoff single on an 0-2 pitch and a hard-hit line-drive out creating trouble as the middle of the Twins’ order waited for its hacks against the Tigers left-hander whom Minnesota roughed up last

DETROIT -- The first inning looked like a threat for Matthew Boyd on Saturday, a solidly struck leadoff single on an 0-2 pitch and a hard-hit line-drive out creating trouble as the middle of the Twins’ order waited for its hacks against the Tigers left-hander whom Minnesota roughed up last year. Then came a curveball.

Actually, Boyd threw pretty much every pitch he had at cleanup hitter Marwin Gonzalez -- a first-pitch fastball, followed by a changeup, a slider, another fastball and a buckling curveball that sent Gonzalez down swinging.

“Based on his approach, you have to show him everything,” Boyd said.

This is the Matthew Boyd that Tigers pitching coach Rick Anderson has been pushing for, encouraging the lefty to use all his pitches. Boyd had his full arsenal on display in an 8-2 Tigers win to open Saturday’s doubleheader, and it resulted in his second consecutive strong start to climb out of his early-season funk.

Box score

“I’m a four-pitch pitcher,” Boyd said. “Doesn’t mean I can’t be a two-pitch pitcher or a three-pitch pitcher some days. You have to roll with what’s working. But it’s nice to have that to keep guys off-balance.”

An unearned run on a Jorge Polanco sacrifice fly and a Nelson Cruz solo homer -- Cruz's 19th career home run at Comerica Park -- was all the scoring off Boyd (1-4), who earned his first victory since September 2019 during a gem against a team that flummoxed him for most of last season.

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The Twins hit eight home runs off Boyd in 19 innings last season; the Indians were the next closest with five. Much like Boyd changed his approach against Cleveland last weekend, mixing in a steady diet of changeups with his usual fastball-slider combination, he did that and more against Minnesota on Saturday. He threw nearly as many changeups (17) as sliders (18), according to Statcast, and drew six swings and misses off the offspeed pitch.

Moreover, Boyd's changeup -- along with a handful of curveballs -- made his fastball more effective, drawing 10 called strikes.

“You’re playing the game up and down, left and right and front to back,” Boyd said, “and that changeup really allows you to control your barrels a little bit. The curveball helps; another thing to pitch off of. Sliders, same thing. Everything works off each other, so it’s nice to have everything involved and to use that.”

Polanco’s leadoff single was the lone hit Boyd allowed until Ehire Adrianza’s fifth-inning double. Polanco’s third-inning sacrifice fly scored Max Kepler, who reached base on a Jeimer Candelario error along the first-base line.

Boyd was an out away from six innings of one-run ball, having fanned Miguel Sanó on back-to-back changeups, when Cruz sent a 3-1 fastball 437 feet into the second row of shrubs in left-center field. Boyd finished the inning, completing six innings of four-hit ball with no walks and six strikeouts over just 87 pitches.

By the time Cruz homered, the Tigers were well on their way to their third consecutive win behind a 16-hit onslaught against Randy Dobnak (5-2) -- who tossed six innings of one-hit ball at Comerica Park in September 2019 -- and the Twins' bullpen. Miguel Cabrera, Christin Stewart and Jorge Bonifacio drove in two runs each, and Victor Reyes went 4-for-4 in the leadoff spot.

Cabrera’s two-run double was his 2,839th career hit, tying him with Tigers Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer for 50th on the MLB all-time list.

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