Tigers’ Matthew Boyd continues historic start to season

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd throws against the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning Wednesday.

Detroit — The worst part of the whole day for Matthew Boyd was that he was back in the clubhouse doing his shoulder program when Dixon Machado hit his walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

He wanted to be at home plate celebrating the 6-5 win against the Orioles on Wednesday.

“Yeah, I wish I was,” he said. “I let everybody know how I felt when they got back in here, though.”

Boyd has done something now no Tigers’ left-hander has done to start a season since at least Ty Cobb’s fourth season in Detroit. He has allowed one run or less in three straight starts of at least six innings.

According to team research, that hasn’t been done by a Tigers lefty since at least 1908, as far back as research goes.

“We just stuck to the game plan,” catcher John Hicks said. “Liri (Tuesday starter Francisco Liriano) showed us the way yesterday and we stuck with that. (Boyd) changes speeds really well, moves his fastball around. He’s bought into a lot of stuff that Boz (pitching coach Chris Bosio) has talked to him about.

“He’s been throwing the ball great.”

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The word masterful comes to mind. He allowed two hits in 6.1 innings — one a solo home run by Danny Valencia. He struck out six, had 12 swings and misses and 18 called strikes.

“Just attacking, one pitch at a time,” Boyd said. “Using both sides of the plate and mixing it up. Boz with the game plan and the catchers working their tails off in preparing me — they make it easier for me.”

He’s not overpowering anybody, so you figure his margin for error would be slight. Boyd threw three fastballs at 90 mph and one at 91. Everything else was 89 or slower.

But he continues to discombobulate the hitters’ timing by adding and subtracting on four pitches.

The velocity range on his curve ball was 69 to 77 mph (per Baseball Savant); on his fastball 85 to 91; on his change-up 73 to 78 and on his slider 76 to 82.7.

Two balls were hit with exit velocity above 100 mph. The average exit velocity on balls put in play by Orioles hitters was 83.8 mph.

“He was working quick, waiting on hitters to get in there,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He did a really nice job. I was actually surprised his pitch count went up as quick as it did. Boz came over and said he’s in the 90s and it didn’t feel like that.

“But we’re trying to protect him early.”

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His 95th pitch was a fastball, which he struck out Chris Davis with to start the seventh. He left to a standing ovation from the small but energetic Comerica Park crowd.

Funny thing, nothing in Boyd’s history would have suggested this type of outing was coming. The Orioles had banged Boyd around in two previous outings (10 runs in 6.2 innings) and the American League East in general has punished him the last few years (0-4, 7.80 ERA in 10 starts).

New year, new story.

“It was an awesome team win,” Boyd said. “This is the kind of game we pride ourselves on, where we are always going to fight – every single out, every inning and every pitch. That’s what we did today.”