Detroit — There is a time for patience and there is a time for a kick in the pants.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is walking that line with a number of his young pitchers right now, especially Matthew Boyd, who was tagged for seven runs in just 2 1/3 innings in the Tigers’ 13-4 loss to the Yankees Tuesday.
“The truth is, with Matt Boyd at this point, he’s going to have to learn to pitch or there’s going to be a move made,” Ausmus said. “I think it’s best he pitches against major-league hitters and see if he can figure out how to get them out consistently. He’s shown flashes of having that ability.
“At some point, he’s going to have to do it on a consistent basis, simple as that. It applies to everyone. If you don’t perform, the game is going to catch up to you.”
As has been his problem in recent starts, Boyd had trouble commanding his pitches. He fell behind often and when he had to come in, he got hit hard.
Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who hit two home runs on the night, set the tone with a mammoth two-run home run in the first inning. The ball traveled 493 feet, landing just under the giant scoreboard in left field. It was the longest measured home run at Comerica Park, breaking J.D. Martinez’s record by 26 feet.
“Just not executing pitches,” Boyd said. “I wanted to go down and away with a change-up, and I missed up and Sanchez hit a home run. I wanted to go down and away to (Todd Frazier, in the third), I missed up and away and Frazier got a chance to get the ball it the air and he hit a two-run triple.”
Boyd has allowed 16 runs in 12 innings over his last three starts.
“There are some guys here who need to show they can perform consistently at the major-league level,” Ausmus said. “At some point, there is an expiration date on how much rope you get. I don’t want to act like I am putting pressure on people, but hey, this is the big leagues.
“You want to pitch in the big leagues you have to throw strikes. You have to get outs and you have to do it on a consistent basis. You want to give young guys some rope to grow and learn, but it can’t last forever.”
That message wasn’t for Boyd’s ears only. Since Aug. 6, the Tigers are 3-1 in games started by Justin Verlander. His ERA is 2.48 and opponents are hitting just .165 against him. The rest of the rotation, since Aug. 6, is now 0-10. Those pitchers have allowed 63 runs in 59 2/3 innings, with opponents hitting .354.
Tuesday was the eighth time since Aug. 6 they were forced to play out of a deep hole and it was the third time in that stretch that Boyd put them there.
“There are things I need to adjust, things I can be better at,” Boyd said. “I know what I need to do and I’ll make the adjustments for my next start. I’m going to do that. I just need to be on the attack, attack the zone, attack the hitters — be on the offensive instead of being on the defensive.
“Being behind in the count all the time is not what you want to do.”
The problem the Tigers face, though, is a pronounced lack of starting pitching depth.
Anibal Sanchez is on the disabled list with a hamstring strain. His next turn in the rotation would be Saturday and Ausmus said before the game that he wouldn’t be ready in time to make that start and possibly not the one after that.
There is a good chance that Buck Farmer could be recalled from Toledo, but he’d be on eight days rest on Saturday. Left-hander Daniel Norris (quad, groin) is expected to make his final rehab start in Toledo on Saturday. He could join the rotation after that.
The Tigers could opt to use a combination of long relievers for that start, as well — Warwick Saupold and Drew VerHagen, both of whom pitched Tuesday, or Chad Bell.
“We will be fine,” Ausmus said. “Chad Bell didn’t pitch today, so he would be available to work long (on Wednesday). The hope is Jordan Zimmermann has a good game and we don’t have to worry about it.”
Still, this was the 10th time this season a Tigers starting pitcher has failed to survive the third inning. That’s the seventh-most in baseball.
Boyd and Norris were the prizes acquired in 2015 for David Price. Both finished last season strong, and both have been wildly inconsistent this season.
“Quite frankly, they need to prove they deserve to pitch in the big leagues on a regular basis going forward,” Ausmus said. “They have to prove they can get major-league hitters out and they can throw strikes consistently.
“And that applies to the bullpen, too. These guys are getting an opportunity to pitch at the big-league level because of the situation we are in from a standings perspective. You have to throw strikes and you have to get hitters out. It’s not rocket science.”
The bullpen didn’t exactly slam the door shut. The Yankees scored twice off Saupold in the fifth and two more off VerHagen in the seventh (two-run homer by Aaron Hicks, who knocked in three runs).
Sanchez both started and ended the Yankees scoring with long home runs. His second came in the ninth, a two-run shot to right off right-hander Jeff Ferrell. This one was a 403-footer.
Yankees rookie Aaron Judge walked three times and had an RBI single before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh, thus, stopping his major-league record strikeout streak at 37 straight games.
“For me, the way our season has gone, there is no reason not to be patient at this point,” Ausmus said. “We should be patient and give these young pitchers an opportunity to succeed, and hopefully encourage them and help them to succeed. I don’t think this next month and a week will decide anything definitively.
“But in the big picture, this can’t go on forever.”
The lone highlight for the Tigers offense, which was shut down for seven innings by Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, was a pair of home runs by Nick Castellanos. He hit his 17th home run, a two-run shot in the seventh.
Then in the ninth, he hit his first career inside-the-park home run. Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury slid to stop his sinking liner. It got past him and rolled all the way to the wall.
It was the Tigers’ first inside-the-parker since James McCann did it in Minnesota in April of 2015. It was the first one at Comerica Park since the Royals' Lorenzo Cain did it off Verlander on Sept. 8, 2014.