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Tigers' arms no match for Astros' power

@beckjason
May 13, 2019

DETROIT -- Maybe Ronny Rodriguez was thinking the same as many of the Tigers fans in attendance at Comerica Park on Monday night. After back-to-back highlight plays at shortstop to begin the sixth inning, Rodriguez began running towards the dugout as if the inning were over. He was quickly reminded

DETROIT -- Maybe Ronny Rodriguez was thinking the same as many of the Tigers fans in attendance at Comerica Park on Monday night.

After back-to-back highlight plays at shortstop to begin the sixth inning, Rodriguez began running towards the dugout as if the inning were over. He was quickly reminded that they still had an out to go, which reliever Zac Reininger quickly induced for his second consecutive 1-2-3 inning.

Box score

Starter Matthew Boyd certainly could’ve been on board with Rodriguez’s idea of speeding up the game and getting the Astros out of the batters box.

It came too late for Boyd, whom Houston’s hitters taxed for 96 pitches over four innings in Monday’s 8-1 Detroit defeat. The Astros didn’t hammer him; their big hitters didn’t even do much against him. Home runs from Aledmys Díaz and Robinson Chirinos accounted for all the scoring off the Tigers’ ace. But with 28 foul balls in four innings, they simply ran up his pitch count and eventually pulled away when given the chance to face an overworked Tigers bullpen.

“That's a very good hitting team over there, a very patient team, and it was high pitch counts the whole day,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. “They fouled off a lot of pitches. He wasn't on his best game tonight, and they made him pay for it.”

Boyd (4-3) entered Monday with seven consecutive quality starts. He ended it after 96 pitches with a pickoff of Chirinos, saving him from becoming the first Tiger since Kenny Rogers in 2008 to throw 100 pitches in a game without finishing four innings.

That’s what the Astros lineup does even without injured Jose Altuve, on the 10-day IL with a left hamstring strain. Houston entered Monday’s game with the third-fewest strikeouts in baseball, to go with the best batting average, slugging and on-base percentages. That Houston did this to Boyd, one of the American League’s stingiest starters through six weeks, says a lot about how good the Astros are at the plate.

“They had a really good approach,” Boyd said. “Hats off to them on that. They were patient and they didn’t chase. From the get-go, that’s what they did, among other things.”

Boyd induced just four swings and misses out of 96 pitches, including strikeouts of Alex Bregman and Jake Marisnick. All but 10 of his pitches were fastballs and sliders, and he didn’t seem to have his best version of the latter.

“He really didn't have his good breaking ball tonight,” Gardenhire said. “I think that curveball was just kind of fluttering a little bit.”

Said Boyd, “I made a mistake on a few. [Carlos] Correa hit one [for a third-inning double] that wasn’t the best. I threw some good ones down. I just need to throw them in the zone a little more. They did a good job not chasing. I just need to make an adjustment a little sooner, probably, to work it in the zone a little more.”

Detroit’s bullpen covered five innings after Boyd left. The Astros pulled away with a two-run home run by Marisnick in the fifth (off Victor Alcantara) and another two-run shot by Bregman (off Rule 5 Draft pick Reed Garrett) as part of a three-run ninth inning.

Boyd will get a chance to rebound, but the real impact of Monday’s loss could come in the next two games of the series. With Ryan Carpenter starting Tuesday and a potential bullpen game looming Wednesday, Detroit’s relief corps could be in for another major test.

Tigers relievers were effective early in the season in part because starters were working deeper into low-scoring games, allowing Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire to use his bullpen the way he wants to rather than having to. With Michael Fulmer, Matt Moore, Jordan Zimmermann and now Tyson Ross on the injured list, the Tigers are leaning on Boyd, rookie Spencer Turnbull and a resurgent Daniel Norris to give them quality innings and effective starts. A hiccup among the trio forces the bullpen into heavy lifting.

“Our bullpen, they're young and they're full of it, so they're going to get more full of it,” Gardenhire said. “We just need to get our starters to go deeper into games. Those guys take the ball every time you want them to take the ball. You know what, Boyd's been really, really good, and today wasn't one of his better ones, but he competed and he didn't want to come out of the game. Guys have to step up. We all know it. We're going through some tough stretches, and now we have to figure out how to beat these guys.”

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.