The Twins stationed a cardboard cutout of their former manager, Ron Gardenhire, in the front row right behind home plate for his return to Target Field. The Tigers' manager had said when he found out about the cutout in July that he had better be in a good seat, but he was looking for a change of seats Friday.
“I wish they had put me in the outfield,” he said. “That would've been better. Because you get to watch home runs fly.”
As Josh Donaldson’s first-inning drive cleared the batter’s eye in center field, Gardenhire could not have liked the view from any angle, including the dugout. Matthew Boyd had given up back-to-back homers to lead off a game for the third time this season, and Gardenhire had to worry about his bullpen usage in a doubleheader. They ended up being the only runs of a 2-0 Detroit defeat in Game 1.
Boyd recovered nicely, shutting down Minnesota the rest of the way with eight strikeouts over six innings, but Randy Dobnak’s five scoreless innings left him no margin for error.
For three batters, the more fitting cardboard cutout for Boyd’s start was on the other side of the home-plate seats, where Peanuts character and noted long-ball pitcher Charlie Brown was watching. Boyd had Jorge Polanco in a 2-2 count, then Donaldson in an 0-2 hole, but couldn’t finish either of them off. Both counts went full before a high changeup to Polanco and a fastball to Donaldson ended up over the fence. Donaldson’s homer, his second as a Twin, was an estimated 441-foot drive.
Boyd said he was preoccupied with his mechanics instead of focusing on his pitches.
“Those first two hitters, I was worrying about things that I shouldn’t be worrying about, instead of just going out there and attacking the glove,” Boyd said. “It became clear to me and I made that adjustment a little bit into the [next] at-bat.”
With the back-to-back homers, the Twins did to Boyd what the White Sox did against him in consecutive starts in August. Nelson Cruz’s ensuing single had Boyd seemingly poised for disaster Friday, but back-to-back strikeouts of Miguel Sanó and Marwin Gonzalez -- both chasing darting sliders -- allowed Boyd to settle down from there.
“Crazy, huh? I don't try to make sense of it,” Boyd said of the homers. “If you try to make sense of it, that's a rabbit hole that I have been down earlier in my career, and there’s really no reason to.
“What have I done? How can I get better? OK, go forward and get better.”
Ryan Jeffers' ground-ball single against the infield shift in the fifth inning was the only other hit allowed by Boyd (1-5). His slider had so much movement that he hit Brent Rooker and Donaldson with it, both in 0-2 counts, before retiring 10 of his final 11 batters. Boyd’s eight strikeouts, fueled by 16 swings and misses, fell one shy of his season high.
“[The slider] was moving a little bit more today,” Boyd said. “We just had to adjust for that."
The Tigers tested Dobnak early with four hits and a walk over the first three innings, but they couldn’t capitalize, stranding a runner on third in each of the first two frames. Dobnak settled down after Victor Reyes’ leadoff single in the third to retire Detroit’s next eight batters. Jeimer Candelario’s leadoff single in the seventh brought the potential tying run to the plate against Taylor Rogers, but the Twins' closer retired the Tigers in order, capped by a strikeout of Travis Demeritte.