Detroit — James McCann rarely, if ever, admires his work at the plate. Even when he put one in the center-field shrubbery at Comerica Park this season, a blast of more than 420-feet, he dropped his bat, put his head down and circled the bases.
But he couldn’t help himself Monday. He stood and watched, just for a few seconds, his third-inning grand slam home run that ignited the Tigers’ 9-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
“It was a good feeling,” McCann said. “And it was a big spot in the game to be able to open it up like that. I try not to show anybody up, but it was definitely a special feeling.”
No apologies necessary. According to Statcast, that ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 109.4 mph — the hardest measured ball he’s hit in the Statcast era ¡ and traveled 413 feet, beyond the bullpens in left field.
Odd that his 413-foot homer was hit harder than the 420-foot-plus shot to the shrubs earlier.
“That’s why some of that stuff is a bunch of nonsense,” McCann said. “If you hit it hard, you hit it hard. I think some of the hardest hit balls are roll-over grounders to the six-hole (between shortstop and third) and roll-over grounders to the four-hole (between first and second).
“At the end of the day, the trajectory of the ball and what you see is more important than what the Statcast velo tells you.”
The Tigers have won three of four on this home stand.
“We need to start doing that more often,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We have to keep finding ways to bring people in. But we’re a work in progress here. Today was a good one against a very good team.”
Leonys Martin rapped his sixth home run of the season. JaCoby Jones had a pair of doubles. Jose Iglesias had a pair of singles and an RBI. Victor Reyes, who replaced left fielder Niko Goodrum (heat exhaustion), got his first big-league extra base hit (a triple) and first big-league RBI.
But the big blow was McCann’s slam — the third of his career. He jumped all over a 91-mph fastball from Angels starter Tyler Skaggs and the blast put the Tigers up 5-0. That would be enough cushion for Matthew Boyd, who labored but allowed only two hits in five scoreless innings.
Credit again goes to McCann.
“James got me through it,” Boyd said. “We had a good game plan, but I was a little erratic early on and ran my pitch count up a little bit. But James got me through the at-bats and called a great game.”
Boyd needed 63 pitches to get through the first three innings. He walked two and hit another, and had seven at-bats of six or more pitches.
“I think he was grinding hard and I think, too, that’s a really good-hitting team and you have to be careful with your pitches,” Gardenhire said. “He was definitely doing that. … He was cognizant of the hitters over there. If you make a mistake over the plate, they are going to kill you.”
Boyd admitted he was out of sorts right from the start. He hit lead-off man Zack Cozart in the foot to start the game.
“He got away from his mechanics a little bit in the middle of the start,” McCann said. “But he was able to adjust and bounce back to his strengths. That was impressive to see, especially against such good hitters.”
McCann talked to Boyd about settling into a rhythm. He said he was first working too slowly, then he started to rush.
“We talked about a mechanical adjustment and his tempo,” McCann said. “But the fact that he was able to slow it back down speaks to his maturity and development as a pitcher. Not only being able to recognize that, but to make the adjustment, as well.”
Boyd dispatched a red-hot Mike Trout three times — though Trout would later hit his league-leading 18th home run in the ninth inning off Warwick Saupold. He struck out former Tiger Justin Upton twice.
The average exit velocity on the balls the Angels put in play was 80 mph. Soft contact.
Only twice did the Angles get a runner into scoring position against him — it was No. 9 hitter Chris Young both times.
“I was fighting myself a little bit, but James got me through it,” Boyd said. “When something wasn’t working, he called for something else. He really called a great game.”
Boyd has allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts this season.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “Just to be consistent. That’s something guys like Justin Verlander preached. That’s what you want to strive for; that’s what you want to achieve. Every time I go out there, I just want to give my team a chance to win. But I can’t do it alone.
“This was a team win today.”