Boyd shuts down Rangers, Tigers end 5-game skid

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Arlington, Texas —  Of course the Tigers were going to win Saturday night at Globe Life Park.

This is 2016. And if you’re looking for things that make sense, avoid much of what has happened during this eccentricity of a baseball season.

The Tigers had lost five consecutive games as they busted through the Texas steam and heat to a ballpark Saturday that wasn’t about to show any mercy, not with Rangers ace Cole Hamels aching to further twist the visitors’ tails.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 2, Rangers 0

Naturally, the Tigers somehow socked Hamels for 14 hits, the most hits he has allowed in a game, ever. The Tigers meanwhile got a masterpiece from their starter, Matt Boyd, who disassembled the Rangers with seven innings of two-hit baseball that helped the Tigers beat the Rangers, 2-0, and put a stop to the past week’s losing streak.

“I don’t know if it was providential, but it was well-timed for us,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, whose team won for the first time in a week. “I just thought, to be truthful, Matt Boyd was a little sharper tonight. I thought he was a little better.”

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Not that Saturday’s turnaround was all that tidy. The Tigers and their freaky ways ensured as much.

It would take MIT faculty to figure out how they turned those 14 hits and two walks from Hamels — through the game’s first seven innings — into two measly runs. But that was the sum of their offense. Two runs and a 2-0 lead that ultimately held up.

In one inning (the fifth) Saturday they had four hits and scored once.

In another (the fourth) the Tigers brought to the plate four batters. And only four batters. Three of those batters got hits, one of which was a double. The Tigers didn’t score.

Ask the MIT brains how it happened, but two obvious factors were Mike Aviles being thrown out at third on a single by Jarrod Saltalamacchia all before Saltalamacchia died at home plate on another relay-throw knockout as he tried to score on Ian Kinsler’s bloop double along the right-field line.

It was a game from the occult, absolutely, for the Tigers, who at some point had no choice but to score.

And did.

They got a run in the fifth on four singles, the last a poke to left by Justin Upton, to take a 1-0 lead.

They scored again in the sixth on newcomer Dixon Machado’s one-out single and a double to right by none other than Casey McGehee, a fill-in for the injured Nick Castellanos at third. Despite spending most of the year in the minors and sporting a .227 batting average, McGehee tomahawked Hamels for four hits in four at-bats, including that RBI double.

Whoever wrote Saturday’s script can call it a career. Little creative energy can remain after a game’s improbable moments were woven into nine innings of fairly outrageous baseball.

Then again, the Tigers had Saturday an equalizer to all the nuttiness.

He was Boyd. And, boy, did he pitch.

“As good as we’ve seen Matt Boyd,” Ausmus said of a young left-hander who seems, steadily, to be finding a niche in Detroit’s rotation. “He went right at 'em (46 of his first 65 pitches were strikes).”

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Fastballs where Boyd hoped to place them. Sliders that all but tore a couple of tendons on Rangers batters who stretched and reached to swat them, either with a whiff or with a mishit.

He also had a fan in the opposing clubhouse — none other than Hamels, who for some years has been one of the true big-league, left-handed maestros.

Asked by Rangers media if Boyd reminded Hamels of a younger Hamels, the Rangers’ august ace said: “I’d say he’s better.

“He has a slider. In this day and age, if you come up with a slider, you’re going to be a success a lot more easily than what I have, which is a fastball-change-up. He really came after you. He kept firing away – more like a Cliff Lee approach.

“That slider is a devastating pitch. He definitely showed that. I like how quick he was."

Boyd indeed threw strikes all night long and put together as artistic of a pitching performance as the Tigers have seen in 2016. He struck out three, walked two, and threw 99 pitches.

Ausmus, as well as Boyd, credited pitching coach Rich Dubee with lowering Boyd’s arm slot. The less upright, more leveraged, delivery put some smoke on Boyd’s fastball and helped his slider play a bit of hide-and-seek with Rangers batters.

“It made all the difference with all four pitches,” said Boyd, whose record is now 4-2 and whose ERA dropped to 4.16 as the new delivery kicked in. “I’m just not fighting myself.”

Boyd was popped for a single in the first (Adrian Beltre) and Mitch Moreland’s double in the second. After that, nothing.

Eleven red-shirted Rangers batters in a row dissolved before Shin-Soo Choo drew a walk with one out in the seventh. It made no difference. Boyd put away the next two batters and left the game to Shane Greene (scoreless, hitless eighth) and to Francisco Rodriguez, who intended to make amends for some indelicate appearances from the past week.

K-Rod allowed a leadoff single to Beltre, but he got Carlos Beltran on a fly to right, then lured Rougned Odor into a ground-ball double play.

A sudden August losing streak that didn’t seem to have added up had ended – courtesy of a game that was no more understandable.