Indians bedevil Tigers, Matthew Boyd with running game

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cleveland — Rajai Davis was doing what he does best Sunday — tormenting and distracting a pitcher and a catcher.

The former Tiger singled to lead off the fourth inning against the Tigers’ lefty Matthew Boyd Sunday. The Tigers had just scored twice in the top of the fourth to cut the Indians’ lead to 4-2.

Davis, Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez all stole second base off Boyd and catcher James McCann in a three-run second inning. And the Tigers were certain the Indians had picked up something on Boyd.

“It could be a number of things,” McCann said afterward. “Boyd could have been tipping when he was going to first. I could be tipping it by the way I’m setting up differently. They could have had our signs.”

After the third inning, Boyd, McCann and first baseman John Hicks had a conversation in the dugout, trying to figure out what it was the Indians had picked up.

“We tried to cross our checkpoints to make sure it wasn’t anything,” McCann said. “It’s hard to make in-game adjustments. That’s something we have to figure out in-between games, exactly what it really was.”

When Davis stole his 16th base of the season in the third, Boyd had thrown over three straight times, nearly picking him off twice. But when Boyd delivered his first pitch to the plate, Davis still got a huge jump and stole second easily.

So, in the fourth. The Tigers had just cut the lead in half and Davis was again on first base with red-hot Francisco Lindor batting. Boyd threw to first base three times in the seven-pitch at-bat. Lindor fouled off three pitches with the count 1-2 and Boyd threw over to first for the third time to hold Davis.

On the next pitch, Boyd altered his delivery trying to be quicker, and he left a fastball up and over the plate. Lindor blasted his third home run in three days — a two-run shot that ended Boyd’s day.

“We didn’t know what they had (on Boyd) and they obviously had something,” McCann said. “So we said let’s go with a slide step. His arm didn’t catch up all the way. We were trying to go inside and he left it out over the plate.”

The Lindor home run crushed the Tigers' fleeting momentum and the Indians went on to win 12-2 and sweep the series.

Boyd has allowed 11 stolen bases this season. He’s one of five starters in baseball to have double-digit steals against him.

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“I hung Mac out to dry today,” Boyd said. “They shouldn’t have been able to run like they did on me.”

Boyd said he thinks the Indians had found something on either his move to first or his delivery.

“They were on it in that sense,” he said. “That’s one hundred percent on my end. That’s not on James. We’ll have it ironed out before the next one.”

In his last two starts, Boyd has been tagged for 11 runs and 14 hits in just seven innings against the Reds and Indians.

“They are a good-hitting club,” Boyd said. “They extend at-bats and they hit mistakes. It’s a solid lineup from top to bottom. They really battled and I caved first in a few instances. They got me today. But we’re going to be better for this.

“I am going to be better for this.”

Boyd had allowed two runs or less in five of his six starts prior to this Ohio swing.

“It’s just one of those stretches,” McCann said. “Hitters go through it. It can last two weeks, three weeks for hitters and then they’ll be hot as can be for a month. It’s one of those things. The really good ones have one bad start and they are able to figure it out.

“Boyd’s been pretty good this year and now he’s had back to back outings that he expected himself to be better. So I am expecting him to bounce back next time out.”