'He's learning': Matthew Boyd finds a way to survive without best stuff

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Matthew Boyd of the Detroit Tigers warms up prior to the start of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

Detroit — Ron Gardenhire sat next to his struggling starting pitcher Matthew Boyd in the dugout Saturday and asked him, "What would have happened last year in this same situation?"

Boyd looked at him and without hesitation said, "I would have given up six or seven runs."

Matthew Boyd did not have his best stuff against the Toronto Blue Jays Saturday, but he found a way to give his team seven innings and a chance to win — which they did, 7-4. 

"That's a really good sign," Gardenhire said. "He's learning."

Boyd had allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his 10 starts, including his last three. He’d allowed just three home runs in 57 innings.

But his outing against his former team Saturday was more like a search-and-rescue mission. He was searching for two of his assets — the curveball and slider. He never fully recovered either.

"The balls that they hit were poorly executed pitches," Boyd said. "That was the thing. I'd throw a good curveball, then I'd throw a bad one. I'd throw a good slider, then a bad one. It was a little bit of a battle out there."

Boyd gave up doubles to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile and No. 2 hitter Yangervis Solarte in a two-run third inning. Those same hitters bashed solo home runs in the fifth, giving the Jays a 4-2 lead.

Maile hit a curveball, after Boyd had gotten him to swing and miss on the same pitch to get the count to 1-2. Solarte hit a slider. 

"The goal is to attack one pitch at a time and know you can't control what happens when the ball leaves your hand," Boyd said. "You never know what run is going to win or lose a game. You just have to keep attacking and stay with the game plan."

That's what he did. Pitching coach Chris Bosio talked to him between innings and got him to make an adjustment with his slider. Catcher John Hicks stayed on him and Boyd managed to soldier through seven innings.

"We tried to get him more on top of that slider, to where he could get more depth on it," Hicks said. "A couple that he gave up hits on were flat. We were going back-door sliders to right-handed hitters and they were flat and coming back into their barrel.

"He battled, though. He didn't have his best stuff but he made it through."

That he did. He finished his outing with seven straight outs, including an impressive strikeout of former Tiger Curtis Granderson to end the seventh. With a runner at first, Boyd fell behind 2-0, then he threw three straight sliders — Granderson swung and missed at all three.

"Hicks called a great game and he came out in that last inning and really calmed me down," Boyd said. "I was down in the count 2-0 and he was awesome; got me back to right.

"I'm just grateful. I'm surrounded by awesome teachers and coaches to help me get better a day at a time. I'm blessed."

The protector

JaCoby Jones was called out on strikes on a very borderline call by home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher in the fifth inning. Jones turned, got in Fletcher's face and kept talking and pointing all the way back to the dugout — and he kept chirping from the dugout.

Fletcher showed great restraint in not ejecting him. Gardenhire helped, too.

"JaCoby was being pretty loud in the dugout," Gardenhire said. "And the umpire started coming toward our dugout. Any time an umpire comes at your dugout, I have to get out there and try to stop him.

"I don't want him to start throwing guys out of the game."

Gardenhire and bench coach Steve Liddle were yelling to protect Jones. Gardenhire came out and gave Fletcher the rabbit-ears sign.

"I told him to stay out of our dugout," Gardenhire said. "And we told JaCoby to knock it off, too. When that stuff happens, I have to get in the way and get his eyes off my player."

Around the horn 

Nick Castellanos posted his 24th multi-hit game. He's hit in 19 of his last 23 games, hitting .396 with 14 runs scored, 11 doubles, three home runs and 12 RBIs. 

... Jeimer Candelario hit the first lead-off home run of his career off J.A. Happ. He's now reached base in 27 straight games. That's the longest active streak in the major leagues.

... Blue Jays manager John Gibbons opted not to do a postgame press conference, saying he had nothing to say. That might be a first. 

Twitter.com: @cmccosky