The Tigers got right to work in this one. With Boyd on the mound, this was their game to win, and they got out to an early lead. Boyd allowed a single in the first, but quickly went through the Royals without difficulty, and his offense got a rally going in the bottom half of the frame.
Jorge Lopez walked Jeimer Candelario to lead off the inning, and Nicholas Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera smacked back-to-back singles to move Candelario around to score. Consecutive groundouts by Niko Goodrum and Ronny Rodriguez scored Castellanos, and forced out Cabrera and Goodrum. With two runs already in, Gordon Beckham then drilled a shot off the left field wall for a long single, moving Rodriguez to third. A wild pitch allowed Rodriguez to score after a review on a close play at the plate, and the Tigers led 3-0.
Boyd did what you need to do in that situation and quickly returned serve to the Royals. He allowed a Jorge Soler single, and then punched out two hitters before a fly out by Martin Maldonado ended the top of the second. The Tigers went down quickly in order, and Boyd walked Billy Hamilton to lead off the third, which was not ideal. However, Whit Merrifield quickly lined out, and then, after Boyd had Adalberto Mondesi down 0-2, he picked off Hamilton leaning off of first, and promptly polished off Mondesi with a nasty slider. Matt Boyd is for real, y’all.
The Tigers got him another run in the third. Lopez struggled with his fastball command most of the night, and it cost him here. A leadoff walk to Castellanos, and another scorched line drive single from Cabrera had runners at first and second. Niko Goodrum struck out, but the red-hot Ronny Rodriguez turned on a hanging curveball from Lopez and hit a rocket to left to score Castellanos and make it 4-0.
Boyd was doing his thing, pounding hitters up and in with the four-seam fastball, and keeping his slider down, but he dug his own hole in the fourth and had to fight to get out of it. He made a cardinal error by hitting Alex Gordon to lead off the inning, and a single to right from Hunter Dozier put runners at first and third with no outs. Boyd got Jorge Soler on a flare to left but Goodrum’s throw home was up the first base line. Boyd then had Kelvin Gutierrez down 0-2, but got too much plate with a slider, and Gutierrez drilled it up the left-center field gap to score Dozier. The hit-by-pitch and the slider to Gutierrez were the only mistakes on the night, and Boyd paid for both of them. He did settle himself right back down and returned to racking up the strikeouts as he punched out Chris Owings and Martin Maldonado to end the inning.
The Tigers offense didn’t get anything going the next two frames, but Boyd had no trouble with the Royals either. The strikeouts piled up, and the contact was weak. In the sixth, he started to mix in the curveball to hitters already torn between his fastball-slider combo. He racked up eight strikeouts to five hits and one walk through six. Ron Gardenhire sent him back out in the seventh at 94 pitches, and Boyd was in complete control. A pair of weak fly balls, and strikeout number nine on the night were the result as the Tigers’ ace continues to serve notice to the league that he has arrived.
Matt Boyd, Filthy 81mph Back Foot Slider. pic.twitter.com/WV32MkGa9f— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 4, 2019
It was well that Boyd was able to reset after the fourth inning, because the half innings with the Tigers at bat were going quickly and with no positive results. Gardenhire had things lined up to turn to Joe Jimenez in the eighth, and the Tigers’ setup man looked great. Jimenez touched 98 miles per hour, locating an explosive fastball very well. He also showed off some of his tightest sliders of the season. He quickly went through the Royals’ top three hitters, striking out two and getting Alex Gordon to roll over on a 91 mph changeup in a 1-2 count for an easy grounder to end the inning.
The Tigers loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth on singles from Miguel Cabrera, Ronny Rodriguez, and a Gordon Beckham blooper that dropped in shallow right. Unfortunately, Grayson Greiner bounced into an inning-ending double play. And so, it was Shane Greene time.
Greene had a rocky go in this one. He got the first out, but then hung a slider to Jorge Soler, who mashed it off the brick in left-center for a 440-foot solo shot. After Greene recovered to get the second out, pinch-hitter Ryan O’Hearn doubled to right field. Fortunately, Martin Maldonado popped out to Beckham at second base, and Greene clinched his American League leading 13th save.
Matt Boyd: After today’s outing, Boyd’s ERA stands at 3.05 on the year, with a spectacular 2.09 FIP to back it up. His performance tonight puts him squarely back on top as the major league leader in FanGraphs WAR (fWAR).
Miguel Cabrera: We’re still lacking the power, but the big man went 3-for-4 on a set of sharply hit line drives.
Ronny Rodriguez: We are only talking about 41 plate appearances, but Rodriguez is just scalding the ball so far this season. He currently holds a 169 wRC+ and is slashing .324/.366/.676 with two home runs among eight extra-base hits.
Who was the Tigers’ player of the game?
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Matt Boyd: 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, BB, 9 SO, HBP, PO
Ronny Rodriguez: 2-4, R, 2 RBI, 2B
Miguel Cabrera: 3-4, RBI