DETROIT -- Considering Matthew Boyd came within an out of a no-hitter last September, it would be hard to call Tuesday the toughest-luck game the left-hander has pitched at Comerica Park.
Still, a 1-0 loss on a sacrifice fly set up by the game's lone extra-base hit, a blooper over first base that rolled into foul territory? That's almost as rough as the weather in which Boyd was pitching.
The Tigers barely beat the soaking weather system that crossed Michigan on Tuesday, but they barely lost to Jakob Junis, the Royals' second-year right-hander who has now picked up three of his 10 Major League wins at Comerica Park.
Detroit has lost two 1-0 decisions through five games this season, squandering well-pitched games by Boyd and Michael Fulmer while falling to Junis and Pittsburgh's Trevor Williams. The weather conditions have not helped; winter's reluctance to let go of Michigan has left hitters grappling with cold hands on chilly bats that sting when they're jammed on pitches.
"Not ideal," Boyd said, "but in my opinion, it's easier to pitch in that than hit in that."
His teammates wouldn't dispute that.
"It's not fun to play in these days, but it's part of the game," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've been playing in that stuff for a long time. Both teams had to deal with it, and they didn't exactly crush us. I mean, one run. You see that quite a few times in this type of weather."
This weather was conducive to Boyd, who can thrive on fly-ball outs and has preached attacking hitters with strikes since the first days of Spring Training. Fifteen of his 18 outs came on fly balls or popups, compared to just two groundouts. The lefty challenged hitters early and quickly, daring them to swing the bat. He did not walk a batter despite three 3-0 counts.
"You don't want to leave your team out there in a game like that," Boyd said. "Five extra minutes in the cold, windy, rainy conditions doesn't help anybody."
The conditions helped Boyd make a very good impression on Gardenhire, who has a decision to make with his rotation as Mike Fiers nears a return from the disabled list this weekend.
• Fiers could rejoin staff this weekend
"He throws upper 80s," Gardenhire said of Boyd, "but he can be sneaky. He sets a good fastball up with all the other stuff. He works off his changeup and his breaking ball. His fastball gets sneaky sometimes, and that worked out really good for him. He did a heck of a job for us. He gave us a great opportunity to win. That's all you can ask from a pitcher."
For all the aerial outs, Boyd's downfall came from a ball with enough altitude to clear Jose Cabrera at first base but not enough to give right fielder Nicholas Castellanos a play. Cheslor Cuthbert's blooper leading off the second had a 9 percent hit probability, according to Statcast™, but it fell just behind Cabrera and skidded.
"A guy throws his bat at the ball and it spins so much that he spins down the line and turns into a double," Boyd said. "Made a pitch on that one. Just can't really control what happens after that, right? That's how it shakes sometimes."
Cuthbert getting to second on the ball allowed fly balls to be productive. Paulo Orlando's ball to center on a 2-0 pitch moved Cuthbert to third. Jorge Soler took a full-count changeup and lined it to left, giving a backtracking Michael Mahtook no chance to get Cuthbert at home.
"Unfortunately," Boyd said, "that was the deciding run."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The overshift works: The Royals have begun experimenting with overshifting this season, something Royals manager Ned Yost had been opposed to in previous years. It paid off in the fourth. With a runner on first and one out, Kansas City overshifted for James McCann, which put second baseman Whit Merrifield behind second base. Merrifield was able to snare McCann's liner up the middle and throw back to first to get an inning-ending double play.
Cats on the run: The Tigers, flustered by Junis' work for seven-plus innings, tried to manufacture a tying run once Mahtook's leadoff single chased him in the eighth. Mahtook had a hit-and-run play on Justin Grimm's first pitch to Jose Iglesias, but the resulting fly ball to left sent Mahtook back. Two pitches later, Mahtook had a green light to steal second, but Dixon Machado swung and hit a grounder to short. Mahtook moved into scoring position, but with two outs.
"They'd been getting some ground-ball outs," Mahtook said, "so I thought maybe if I got to second base, they threw a breaking ball and it got away, we'd be able to steal a run there."
"I know we're 1-4, but we've been playing really good baseball. There's not one person in this clubhouse that's discouraged, and I think that if we keep grinding and if we keep putting together good at-bats and stay behind each other, I think we're going to win a lot of games." -- Mahtook, on Tigers' start
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The two-hour, 17-minute time of game marked the quickest nine-inning contest the Tigers have played since Oct. 2, 2015, when then-White Sox ace Chris Sale outdueled Alfredo Simon in Chicago in two hours and 13 minutes.
Daniel Norris, who met Danny Duffy by chance over the offseason at a coffee house in California, will oppose him Wednesday for his season debut as the Tigers and Royals finish their series with a 1:10 p.m. ET game at Comerica Park. Norris ended last season with five scoreless innings in a start against the Royals in Kansas City, also opposite Duffy.
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