Boyd confident that he can move past tough outing

May 13th, 2023

DETROIT -- Pitching for the Mariners in the postseason last fall was the dream for , the pride of Mercer Island, Wash. 

Starting for the Tigers is a new day for Boyd, trying to prove he can be an effective member of a Major League rotation again after the flexor tendon in his left elbow halted his starting days in 2021.

“I'm very confident with how I'm going ahead,” the lefty said after Friday’s 9-2 loss to the Mariners at Comerica Park. “It's going to be one of my best years in the big leagues. I don't doubt that. I said it in spring. I know it right now.”

This is a standard positive mindset for Boyd -- the same outlook he took upon returning to the Tigers with hopes of leading them back on the upswing and lifting his career with them. With that positive outlook, it’s hard to talk about anything as a nightmare scenario.

A 6.47 ERA through seven starts is not going to discourage him. It’ll just give him a list of things to work on before his next start, which he’ll fortunately have extra days in between thanks to Tigers off-days next Monday and Thursday.

Facing the Mariners for the first time since his stretch run for them was something he relished, not dreaded. Facing the Mariners without any feel for his pitches was about as close to a nightmare as he gets -- not for the opponent, but for the helplessness.

“Matt Boyd wasn’t on his game,” his old manager, Mariners skipper Scott Servais said, “and we took advantage of it tonight.”

At first, he could feel his delivery going too slowly. When he tried to fix it, he could feel himself going too quickly. When he tried to slow down, take a breath and find the middle ground, he could see the pitch timer ticking down.

“It's harder, without a doubt, when you have to make more adjustments,” he said. “You don't have that time to take your time on the mound and collect yourself. You have to make it pitch by pitch. You have 20 seconds. There were some times when I was, and then all of a sudden you look over and I'm at nine seconds, and I have to get on the mound and make a pitch, because I can't get a ball here. That's something to learn.”

Before he could figure it out, he had manager A.J. Hinch on the mound to take the ball. His matchup against his ex-teammates Friday lasted just 12 batters, nine of which reached base safely against him, one of which he retired on a pickoff.

“Really from the very beginning, he looked uncomfortable,” Hinch said, “couldn’t really sync up his delivery."

Instead of the home-run bug biting him like in past starts, he fell to an uncharacteristic battle with command, walking four batters, throwing just five first-pitch strikes and throwing just 28 strikes out of 55 total pitches. None of the five hits he allowed went for extra bases, but three of them drove in runs, including the two-run single from reigning AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodríguez that ended his outing.

All four walks came around to score.

“Four-pitch walk to start the game probably tells us everything that we need to know,” Hinch said. “It didn’t look like he was in control of anything.”

While Boyd’s heavy fastball usage (27 pitches) was right around normal, his slider usage was not. He threw just seven, the same as his curveball total. He fanned Teoscar Hernández on the slider to begin the second inning, then didn’t record another out, walking three of Seattle’s next five hitters.

“It was the tempo and delivery that really knocked everything off,” he said. “I sprayed my fastball, changeup, just a lot of inconsistency with that. It affected all the pitches. Sometimes you can hang around a little bit and make the adjustment as you go and cruise the rest of the game. It came back and bit me, and that's the unfortunate part.”

After three solid Tigers starts in Cleveland earlier this week, it stood out. Coming off his first quality start of the season, it was a particular disappointment. He has alternated between wins and rough starts in his last four outings. He’ll try to put the extra days to use before his next start, likely next weekend in Washington -- the city, not his home state.

“Nothing I can't do,” he said. “I'm very confident with the path ahead.”