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Matt Boyd’s curveball and a ‘resilient’ offense sparked Tigers’ comeback win

Avila’s gamecalling helped keep Boyd focused, and gave the offense their opportune moment to wake up.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT — For Matt Boyd, it was all about the curveball. For the offense, it was time. The result: one of the best starts Boyd has had in 2017, and a three-run seventh-inning that gave the Tigers a much-needed comeback win.

May 3 yielded a 723-inning, three-run, five walk, four strikeout start for Boyd. Saturday, while an out less recorded, exhibited a greater show of dominance from the young left-handed starter that the team hasn’t seen often enough from him this season. And he did it against one of the best teams in baseball for 2017.

“To be honest with you, [Boyd] and [Collin] McHugh are pretty similar, just one throws right and one throws left,” Avila said. “They both have that overhand curveball that’s the equalizer. It was, for Matt, I thought, today. He mixed that with his changeup and his slider and his fastball, and it was pretty much the same story with McHugh. When Matt’s locating, and he’s able to use all of his pitches like that, he’ll run through some pretty good lineups.”

Aside from a first-inning pitch down the middle that resulted in a two-run homer from Evan Gattis, Boyd gave the Astros little to work with. Of the 82 pitches he threw, 14.6 percent were swings and misses, resulting in awkward swings on pitches outside the strike zone, as well as in. It was, in Avila’s eyes, one of Boyd’s best starts of the season.

The unfortunate result of a fastball landing in the seats for a homer forced Avila and Boyd to switch things up early up, but turning to a heavy reliance on the curveball ended up being fortuitous for the Tigers. And it yielded a dominant start for Boyd, who has had a difficult time with consistent results this year.

For a while, though, it didn’t appear like the offense was in the mood to do much of anything. The Tigers swung at poor pitches that resulted in weak outs, and six quiet innings came and went with little hope of an alternate ending. It took a hit batter, an unlikely three-hit day from Victor Martinez, and a wild pitch by the Astros, but eventually, the Tigers snapped out of it.

Boyd isn’t looking to the past for comparison with regards to how he did Saturday night. But equipped with the curveball and some sparkling defensive plays by Ian Kinsler along the first base foul line in right, and Justin Upton’s warning track catch in left field, the Tigers finally ended their four-game losing streak. And gave fans something to cheer about — a quality that has been in short supply of late.

“We used the curveball quite a bit,” Boyd said. “Alex called a great game. We had some huge defensive plays. We were resilient tonight. The other team threw well and played a good game, but we stuck to it, all the way to the end. Plays like Kinsler, J-Up, and Adduci — Miggy, I mean, they played it all the way. We were resilient tonight, we kept fighting, and it was a good team win.”