Detroit – The worst pitch Matt Boyd threw Monday night ended up in left field.
Fortunately, it was after he snared a line drive by Joe Mauer leading off the sixth inning. As he was trying to start the around the horn, he flung it past third baseman Nick Castellanos into left field.
“I think I made myself look real athletic and then five seconds later I made myself look like a dunce,” he said, laughing.
Far from it. Boyd pitched the best game of his young big-league career, blanking the Twins in six strong innings in the Tigers 1-0 win at Comerica Park.
It was his first win of the season and just the second of his career.
“It doesn’t matter if I get the win or not, as long as we win,” said Boyd. “You ask anybody in this clubhouse – just get the W. That’s the only goal we have.”
The Tigers have now won three of four, and they’ve beaten the Twins seven straight times.
Justin Upton’s 200th career home run with two outs in the second inning, a high missile that hugged the foul pole in left field, was all the offense the Tigers produced or needed Monday, beating the Twins 1-0.
“I knew it was the 200th, Ian (Kinsler) has been wearing me out about it,” Upton said. “It’s definitely cool to reach that milestone, but I hope that’s not the last milestone I reach.”
The last thing he thought was that shot in the second inning would be the game-winner.
“Definitely not,” he said. “I never want to wish that we are going to score one run, but it ended up being a big one, which is cool.”
Credit Boyd and some stingy work by the back end of the Tigers bullpen for that. After Boyd, Justin Wilson, Shane Greene and closer Francisco Rodriguez locked it down with three scoreless and hitless innings. It was Rodriguez's 26th save.
And this against a Twins’ offense that has been hot. Since June 18, they’d scored 148 runs, the most in baseball.
“Sometimes in baseball you’re supposed to win 1-0,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “If their pitcher is dealing, then our pitcher has to do a little better. Ours did that tonight.”
There was a little drama in the ninth after Rodriguez walked Miguel Sano with one out. Danny Santana ran for him. But on a 3-2 pitch, Rodriguez struck out Brian Dozier and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw out Santana trying to steal.
“A lot of credit goes to Matt Boyd,” Ausmus said. “He used all of his pitches and his change-up at times was exceptional. He got a lot of swings and misses and a lot of mishits. His pitch count was up early but he got through six inning. He was outstanding.”
Boyd outdueled Twins righty Ricky Nolasco. He allowed just three hits (same as Nolasco) and struck out seven.
Boyd was in trouble only in the fourth inning. With two outs, he gave up a double to Max Kepler and he hit Robbie Grossman. He wasn’t rattled. He got Eddie Rosario to ground out to end the inning.
He was commanding his four-seam and two-seam fastballs well, and then mixing his change-up masterfully.
“Salty (catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia) and I were on the same page all game,” Boyd said. “I just trusted what he put down. The change-up was effective, but he called a great game.”
He was unafraid to throw any pitch in any situation.
Case in point: In the sixth inning, he got ahead of Sano with a change-up and two two-seamers. With the count 2-2, he froze Sano with a 93 mph four-seamer, but didn’t get the strike call.
On 3-2, he came back with a perfectly-located change-up to strike out Sano looking.
The next hitter was Brian Dozier. Boyd fell behind 3-0 and then came back to strike him out – two-seamer, change-up, four-seam.
“It depends on the day,” Boyd said of his pitch selection. “When you have four pitches, not everyone is going to be there on a given game. Some days you’ve got to roll with three, some days you have to roll with two and other days you have all four.
“I just trusted in all of them and let it happen.”
Boyd threw 21 change-ups Monday, 15 were strikes, 14 were swung at and one was put into play for a base hit. Saltalamacchia said he knew early that pitch was going to be effective.
“It was definitely part of the game plan but maybe not as much as it ended up being,” he said. “During warm-ups it was really good. Then early in the game when the shadows were tough, I felt like they were taking bad swings on it, so I wanted to stay with it.
“And he kept getting better and better, keeping it down. I felt confident it was a pitch they weren’t going to do much with.”
In his last two starts, Boyd’s allowed one run on seven hits with 13 strikeouts.
“Matt’s got the stuff,” Saltalamacchia said. “He’s young and he’s starting to learn who he is and who he is in the big leagues.”
Boyd will almost certainly get at least one more start, as he continues to fill in for the injured Jordan Zimmermann. Daniel Norris, who made a 67-pitch rehab start in Toledo Monday, could rejoin the rotation on Saturday, though that is not official.
“We have to talk about it,” Ausmus said. “He has to be able to get to 80-85 pitches. Maybe he can, I don’t know. We will discuss it and then make a decision.”
If Norris is back, Boyd’s next start will be on Sunday.