Boyd delivers season-best effort against KC

April 24th, 2021

DETROIT -- spent more time than he probably cares to remember tipping his cap in postgame quotes to hitters the last couple of years, having led American League pitchers in home runs in 2019 and '20. Five strong starts into his '21 season, those days appear to be over. But after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Royals, he had to credit his opposing starter.

Boyd can cool off red-hot Kansas City. He can even shut down his old nemesis, Whit Merrifield. But he cannot support his own cause at the plate.

“Hats off to [Brady] Singer; he threw a great game,” Boyd said.

This is part of the reason why Boyd has taken a leadership role in a Tigers clubhouse that has gotten younger around him. He will not complain about his fate or bemoan his lack of run support. He will control what he can on his side of the game, strive to get better, support his teammates and look ahead to his next outing.

“I think there’s ways we can all get better,” Boyd continued. “And you know what? We’re going to go forward, and we’re going to continue to get better as a team.”

Though Boyd’s strong opening month rolls on, he can’t celebrate it. He held his old AL Central tormentors to three hits over eight innings, but an unearned run left him on the short end of a duel against Singer, who looks more like a Tigers nemesis with each meeting.

It was Detroit's eighth loss in nine games since sweeping Houston last week. The Tigers have scored 18 runs, and surpassed two runs in a game just twice in that stretch.

“I mean, we’re better than how we’ve played, and we’re getting it handed to us pretty often right now,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “So our guys are pretty frustrated.”

Boyd entered the day with a 6.05 ERA in 22 career starts against the Royals, but he picked up two of his three wins last season at their expense. When Boyd has had an effective changeup to complement his fastball-slider combination, he has generally pitched better against them.

Much of Boyd's historic trouble starts at the top of the lineup, where Merrifield hit 25-for-48 (.521) lifetime against him, the highest batting average for any active batter-pitcher matchup with at least 50 plate appearances. Boyd not only shut down Merrifield on Saturday, he quieted most of a Royals lineup that has been off to a solid start this season.

Again, Boyd threw more changeups (21) than sliders (14), and again the pitch was generally effective, with an 81 mph average exit velocity on 10 balls in play against it. Boyd paired it well with a fastball averaging 92 mph and a sinker at 90, both a tick up from his season average.

“He’s got pretty good command of [his changeup], and he’s not afraid to throw it,” Hinch said. “I saw him throw it three times in a row, maybe even four times in a row to the same hitter.”

The one exception set up the scoring that beat him.

Boyd retired his first 12 batters in order until Jorge Soler hit a changeup off the left-field fence for a leadoff double in the fifth. Hanser Alberto’s one-out single put runners at the corners, but Boyd induced a ground ball from Andrew Benintendi.

An inning-ending double play might have been a long shot, but a high throw to second from first baseman left no play at first as Soler scored. Michael A. Taylor’s ensuing single sent Benintendi to third, where ’ throw sailed to the backstop for an unearned run.

Boyd retired his final 10 batters, but he never pitched with a lead. He has allowed four earned runs on 13 hits in 22 innings over his past three starts, walking two and striking out 12, but has one win to show for it.

“He was incredible,” Hinch said. “And it’s unfortunate for all of us that we couldn’t pull out a win when you get a game pitched like that.”

halved Detroit’s deficit in the bottom of the inning with his first home run of the season on his 24th birthday. But two singles was all Singer allowed otherwise, pounding his sinker-slider combination into Detroit hitters for eight strikeouts and 10 groundouts.

Singer, ’s old SEC rival from the University of Florida and fellow first-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, has beaten the Tigers in three consecutive meetings since September, accounting for three of his five Major League victories. He has held Detroit to one run on eight hits with 21 strikeouts in 20 innings in that span.