DETROIT -- Matthew Boyd won his battle with the flu bug since his last start. On Tuesday, he finally got the run support he needed to win a pitching duel, this one opposite Chris Archer."As long as we win as a team, that's all I care about," Boyd said of
DETROIT -- Matthew Boyd won his battle with the flu bug since his last start. On Tuesday, he finally got the run support he needed to win a pitching duel, this one opposite Chris Archer.
"As long as we win as a team, that's all I care about," Boyd said of his six innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 Tigers win over the Rays at Comerica Park. "As long as our win column as the Tigers keeps going up, that's what matters."
That sentiment is understandable considering last September, when Boyd pitched to a 2.95 ERA and the Tigers won only one of his six outings. The lone victory was the no-hit bid he took into the ninth inning. Still, what Boyd is doing so far this season is backing up what he did over the final month last year.
He has four one-run outings in five starts this season, with Tuesday's outing lowering his ERA to 2.48. The lone exception was his previous start last week in Pittsburgh, where he tried pitching through illness and lasted just 3 2/3 innings with four runs allowed. He felt much better a couple days later, and with warmer weather finally in Detroit -- first-pitch temperature was 82 degrees -- the difference showed.
Though Boyd has been working with slower velocities -- partly by design, partly by necessity in unseasonably cold April weather -- his fastball seemed to pick up from a late-winter slumber Tuesday. His fastball averaged faster than 90 mph for the first time this season, topping out at 93 mph on a Matt Duffy strikeout to strand runners at the corners to end the third. That's closer to what he was throwing through his stretch run last year.
The Rays put that fastball in play eight times Tuesday, but nothing for extra bases, let alone the home-run ball that has produced growing pains for Boyd in the past. That's because he never allowed them to sit on that pitch.
"Slow down their bat speed," Boyd said. "That was one of the game plans tonight. They're an aggressive team. We just went out there and executed."
While Boyd threw fastballs with 33 of his 96 pitches, he actually threw more sliders -- 36 of them, inducing six swing-and-misses, including a big one from Mallex Smith to strand two more runners in the fourth after Leonys Martin threw out Wilson Ramos at home plate.
"I thought he was pretty sharp -- fastball, changeup, sliders underneath," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He made it challenging. We couldn't get in any rhythm. He just kept us off-balance enough. We had some guys out there get on base, but it seemed like he really dialed it in when that happened. Credit him, really well-pitched performance, and then their bullpen came in and did a nice job."
Aside from Adeiny Hechavarria's leadoff single and run in the fifth, Boyd (1-2) continually escaped trouble. Even in that inning, he stranded two more runners with a Daniel Robertson popout before retiring the side in order in his sixth and final inning.
Hechavarria's run tied the game, but the Tigers crept back in front the following inning by working 29 pitches from Archer despite three 0-2 counts. Dixon Machado took a close 0-2 slider to stay alive before his single moved James McCann into scoring position for Martin, whose double off the right-field wall easily sent McCann home.
Archer (2-2) struck out Detroit's next two batters, finishing with six strikeouts in as many innings, but took a hard-luck loss for one of his best outings during what has been a rocky start to the season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Martin returns with a flourish: Though the Rays put up three singles off Boyd in the fourth inning, they paid for third-base coach Matt Quatraro's decision to send Ramos home and test Martin's arm in center field. Rob Refsnyder's hard-hit single up the middle sent Ramos around third. Martin threw a one-hopper home that easily beat Ramos while also holding Carlos Gomez at second base with two outs.
"I try to take advantage of any opportunity, and doing my best to help the team," said Martin, who missed Monday's game with hamstring tightness. "I knew he was a slow runner, so I had no reason to be rushed. Thank God I made a good throw."
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HE SAID IT
"This team fights. We're going to keep fighting all year long. So, whenever we match up with somebody, I hope they bring their 'A' game, because we're not going to give up."
-- Tigers closer Shane Greene, who rebounded from a three-run ninth inning Monday by retiring the side in order Tuesday night
Michael Fulmer (1-2, 2.76) will try to build on his stingy opening month Wednesday when he takes the mound to face the Rays in the series finale at 1:10 p.m. ET. He could face a pitching duel opposite Blake Snell (4-1, 2.52).
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.