Chicago – The curious case of Matthew Boyd plays on.
At times Sunday, Boyd looked like the second coming of Cliff Lee. He was working quickly, assuredly; with an overhauled delivery, he was attacking the strike zone with a variety of pitches, including a fastball that hit 95 mph and breaking ball that floated in at 74.
He breezed through the first two innings, throwing 31 pitches, 22 strikes, with three strikeouts and eight swings and misses. He also breezed through the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, allowing only two hits.
But in the third inning, he lost the game.
“I went out there on the attack today,” said Boyd, who gave up five runs in the third inning in the Tigers’ 7-1 loss to the White Sox. “I executed the majority of my pitches, even in that third inning, and was in control of myself.
“But that being said, my performance cost us a game today. That is completely on me. The goal is to win out here and I have to be better in that sense.”
The loss aside, this was an important start for Boyd. He had lost his last three, giving up 16 runs in 12 innings and was on the verge of pitching his way out of the rotation. But between starts, he made some significant alterations to his delivery.
“He didn’t tweak it, he changed it,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Usually this is something you’d do in the offseason and spring training. This was really a step forward for him.”
Boyd simplified his delivery and made it quicker and more direct to the plate. He worked more from a stretch position on every pitch, starting with his hands up and away from his body. The result was that he was able to work at a quicker pace, his command was much better and his fastball seemed to have more zip (93-95 mph).
“It was better, but more important, it’s bodes well,” Ausmus said. “He still has to learn to stop a big inning. That has been an issue for him. But I like what I saw from the delivery. The simplification of the delivery will work well going forward.”
Five of the seven hits allowed by Boyd came in the third.
“Three of those hits came on pitches I felt good about,” Boyd said. “The other two I didn’t execute.”
His biggest mistake was a 3-2 fastball that Matt Davidson sent some 400 feet into the seats in right-center field, a three-run home run.
“I tried to go down and away and it caught too much of the plate,” Boyd said. “It was a three-run mistake.”
The third inning has been a nightmare for Boyd this season. He’s allowed 31 earned runs in 17 innings (16.41). He’s allowed 38 earned runs in the 83.1 other innings.
But other than the third inning, Boyd pitched five shutout innings, allowing just two hits. In all, he struck out seven and got 15 swings and misses – eight with his fastball.
So much good and yet so fatally bad in one inning. It’s mystifying, yet encouraging.
"This was a huge step," Boyd said.
There was no such vagary in the performance of White Sox rookie right-hander Lucas Giolito. He was dominant, blanking the Tigers on three hits for seven innings.
“Most young pitchers come up throwing 95-97 mph,” Ausmus said. “But this guy pitches. He throws 92-93, but uses four pitches and threw them all for strikes. He was throwing a change-up even to right-handed hitters. He did a nice job.”
Mikie Mahtook snapped an 0-for-21 skid with a triple in the second inning. JaCoby Jones, just recalled from Toledo, slapped a single and then was caught stealing in the third.
The Tigers had multiple runners in only one inning, the seventh. With two outs, Mahtook walked, John Hicks singled and Jones walked. Giolito was at 97 pitches.
Jose Iglesias hit the first pitch he saw deep and down the left-field line. Third base umpire Nick Mahrley called it fair – a grand slam. But, alas, the ball was clearly foul. The umpires conferred and overturned the call without video review.
“From my angle, which was directly down the line, I knew it was foul,” Ausmus said. “Otherwise I would have argued.”
Iglesias, after fouling off six pitches, grounded out to end the threat.
The Tigers lone run was provided by Ian Kinsler, a home run leading off the eighth off Jake Petricka. It was his 14th homer of the season.
The Tigers are now 3-12-4 in their last 19 road series and overall have lost 12 of the last 16 games.