Detroit — So, Matt Boyd, what were you thinking when you walked off the mound in the seventh inning to a standing ovation?
“Just how grateful I am,” said the rookie, who beat the Royals 2-1 Wednesday for his first major-league win in his Tigers’ debut. “Just awesome. I told Daniel Norris, ‘It feels like we’re home.’ This place was rocking. It meant a lot that they did that. It’s something I will never forget.”
Boyd, who along with Norris are two-thirds of the package the Tigers got from Toronto for David Price, allowed a run and seven hits in seven strong innings helping the Tigers snap a three-game losing skid to the Royals. He outdueled crafty Royals veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto.
“I’m pitching against the Royals, not Johnny Cueto,” he said. “You can’t keep track of that. It’s still baseball and you still have to execute your pitches whether it’s the 1927 Yankees or anybody. You gave to go out and pitch because bad pitches get hit.”
The Tigers got a run in the third when Anthony Gose hit a two-out triple over Lorenzo Cain’s head in center field. That plated Tyler Collins, who had doubled to lead off the inning.
In the fourth, Ian Kinsler led off with a triple and scored on Victor Martinez’s ground out.
That’s all Boyd had to work with.
Before the game, Ausmus’s main concern was that Boyd might be too amped up.
“The most important thing for young players, especially pitchers, is slowing the game down,” Ausmus said. “The game only happens — especially for a pitcher — only happens as fast as you allow it to happen. You can’t let the game speed up in your mind. A lot of times, that just means taking a breath and slowing things down.”
Boyd was amped up, for sure, but not in a bad way. His average fastball speed is 91 mph, but he threw five straight four-seamers at 94 mph in the first inning. As the game wore on, the velocity fell back to its normal low-90s range, but he continued to attack hitters — and most of them with pitches up in the zone.
He didn’t walk anybody and only struck out two. But he got 15 fly-ball outs.
It was a far cry from his last big league start with the Blue Jays. That was on July 2 and the Red Sox got seven runs and six hits off him without making an out. But then, throwing fly balls in spacious Comerica is a far different beast than throwing them in the Rogers Centre.
“I do get a lot of fly balls, so to pitch here is fun,” Boyd said. “It’s a baseball stadium.”
He hung a change-up to Kendrys Morales with two outs in the fourth. Morales hit it into the gap in left center for a triple, scoring Eric Hosmer.
He wriggled out of a jam in the fifth. He allowed a one-out single to Alex Rios and then threw a pick-off attempt down the right field line. Rios was on third.
But Boyd got Omar Infante to ground out and Alcides Escobar to fly to right.
His best pitch was reported to be his slider, but he struggled to find it Wednesday. To the right-handers, he mixed both a change-up and a round-house curve, both ranging in speed from 73 to 79 mph.
Boyd, who bears a physical resemblance for Michigan native and former Braves lefty Steve Avery, wound up throwing 106 pitches, 72 for strikes.
Bruce Rondon pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out Hosmer to end it.
Blaine Hardy got the first two outs in the ninth and Alex Wilson finished it off, though not without drama.
Salvador Perez singled. Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran and stole second. But Wilson got Alex Rios on a long fly to left to end the game.
Boyd was asked how he might celebrate his first big league win.
“I don’t know, I’ve never done it before,” he said. “I will tell you tomorrow.”