Cleveland — It seemed like a good idea.
Pair James McCann with pitcher Matthew Boyd for the finale against the Indians. Boyd had a 1.59 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of .195 in six starts with McCann behind the plate. His numbers are worse with backup Grayson Greiner (5.73, .222).
Besides, McCann is a product of the University of Arkansas and Boyd is from Oregon State — their respective schools are playing for the College World Series championship.
“Boyd’s mind is all about Oregon State right now,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said, jokingly hours before the game. “I want him to get with a catcher who will make him focus. I want him thinking about the Indians, not about the College World Series. Same for McCann.”
It was funnier before the game.
The scorching Indians drove Boyd out of the game two batters into the fourth inning — a two-run, two-strike home run by Francisco Lindor being the final blow — and went on to sweep the Tigers, 12-2, Sunday.
"We have to find a way to get back into the win column," McCann said. "No one likes to lose. It's these moments that are a true character test for what kind of team we are. Are we going to be able to bounce back and put this in the rear-view mirror or is this going to have a snowball effect."
It was the fifth straight loss for the Tigers, their seventh straight in Cleveland this season and 10th straight here going back to last season. They have not as much as had a lead in any of the seven losses at Progressive Field this season.
In fact, the Tigers have led for just a half an inning in the last 10 road losses against the Indians.
"It's no secret the success they've had against us," McCann said. "Go back to the first series here in April, the first three games could've gone either way. But this weekend, they took it to us and we didn't respond."
The state of Ohio was especially unkind to Boyd on this trip. In his two starts — at Cincinnati and Cleveland — he was tagged for 11 runs and 14 hits in just seven innings.
"I got hurt today because I just didn't hit my spots," he said. "Hats off to them. They stayed in at-bats and battled and when I missed, they hit it."
After giving up a run on doubles to Lindor (on an 0-2 pitch) and Edwin Encarnacion in the first inning, Boyd endured a nightmarish, 36-pitch second inning — four singles, two walks and three stolen bases produced three runs.
His night in Cincinnati was ruined by grand slam home run by Joey Votto, a ball that according to Statcast had a one-percent hit probability.
"You look at it for what it is," Boyd said of his last two starts. "You don't need to reinvent the wheel. Just go back to what brought you success and you evaluate the last two starts honestly.
"You don't get too results-oriented. You look at the process of everything and you go from there."
The Indians piled on against reliever Artie Lewicki. Jose Ramirez (three hits), Jason Kipnis (three hits) and Encarnacion all homered off the Tigers' rookie right-hander.
Encarnacion ended Lewicki's day in the eighth with a grand slam home run — that after he had taken a hard ground ball off from Lindor off his foot.
"He said he was fine," Gardenhire said. "He got hit in the ankle and he said it numbed up and it didn't hurt. We were trying to get him through and that's the unfortunate part, him giving up that home run when he pitched really good.
"That really stinks."
The Indians have won a season-high seven straight. They swept the Tigers by a combined score of 26-3.
"They're hot," Gardenhire said. "They are swinging it good and they jumped us early. They have a good bunch of hitters and you make a mistake, they make you pay."
The Tigers’ offense never got going this weekend, either. Shut out by rookie Shane Bieber on Friday and dominated by Trevor Bauer for the fourth time this season on Saturday, the Tigers managed two runs in six innings off right-hander Adam Plutko who was making his fifth big-league start.
"You always respect the guys wearing the other jersey; they are big-league players," McCann said. "But sometimes you got to step up, too. It's not always tip your cap. Sometimes it, 'We've got to find a way to do a better job.'"