Matthew Boyd back on beam as Tigers take series from Royals

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers starter Matthew Boyd earned his first victory Wednesday since June 7.

Kansas City, Mo. — The Tigers did something Wednesday they hadn’t done in 38 days. They won a series.

A three-run home run by Jose Iglesias and another big day for Victor Martinez highlighted an 8-4 win over the Kansas City Royals, giving the Tigers their first series win since they swept the White Sox in mid-June.

"Thanks for telling me that," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said, sarcastically. "We've played a lot of good series, we just haven't been able to win one. So, to win it here, on the road, this was huge."

Starter Matthew Boyd, who pitched six strong innings, ended a little drought of his own. He hadn't won a game since June 7. He’d gone 0-5 with two no-decisions in the interim.

And this was just his second quality start in that eight-start span, though he was good in his last start (a run and three hits over five innings) against the Red Sox.

"I don't put much weight on the (personal) wins and losses either way," said Boyd, who struck out seven. "Its when you don't give your team a chance to win, that's when it hurts you. 

"It's nice that it happened (getting the win), but as long as we won the series today, that's really all that matters."

In his previous start against the Red Sox, Boyd gave up a run on two hits and a walk in the first inning. Pitching coach Rick Anderson was waiting for him when he got back into the dugout.

"Andy jumped him a little bit," Gardenhire said. "He told him he needed to pick up the pace and start throwing the fastball." 

Message received. He gave up just one more hit after the first in that start and he used his fastball with extreme effectiveness on Wednesday.

"What you have to do is speed up hitters," Gardenhire said. "He can locate it pretty good, and when he can pound that fastball in and away, it gets them off his other stuff. It makes him that much better."

Boyd threw 57 fastballs (out of 95 pitches), 29 four-seamers and 28 sinkers. He got nine called strikes on those, and eight swings and misses with his slider.

BOX SCORE: Royals 8, Tigers 4

"I looked up one time and saw 94 mph (on the radar gun)," catcher John Hicks said. "That's the first time I've seen that out of him this year."

Cause and effect: As he's gone back to using the fastball more, the velocity has ticked back up. He hit 93 and 94 mph Wednesday. 

"It's probably because I am using it more," Boyd said. "But every year it's gets better as the year goes on. Ever since spring training (when he was straining to get to 90 mph), I haven't had any worries about that.

"My trend is to always get better (with the fastball) as the season goes on."

Oddly, it was left-handed hitters Mike Moustakas (two hits, RBI) and Alex Gordon (double, RBI) who did the most significant damage against him. But on the whole, there wasn’t a lot of hard contact. The average exit velocity on balls put in play by the Royals was 83.4 mph (per Statcast).

"It was awesome to get a series win today," Boyd said. "The defense was great. Hicksy called a great game and the offense put up a lot of runs. I was able to just kind of put the pedal to the metal and attack."

It was not a great day for Boyd's counterpart, Royals starter Danny Duffy. He was tagged with nine hits and seven runs (two scoring on wild pitches) in 5 2/3 innings — just about killing his trade value. 

"You know what, Danny is a great pitcher," said Martinez, who has hit over .400 against Duffy in his career. "Believe it or not, but he is one of the toughest left-handers in the game. It's not a fun at-bat at all against him. 

"I don't know. Maybe my concentration level goes up a little bit when I face a pitcher like him. You can't take a pitch off. He has great stuff. You just hope when he makes a mistake you can get the most out of it." 

Martinez had two singles and an RBI off the left-hander Duffy. On the day, he had three singles and two RBIs. For the series, Martinez was 6 for 12 with five RBIs.

"There's nothing different," Martinez said of his hot streak. "Maybe just getting a little lucky. I don't remember the last time I got a hit past the first baseman, in that hole (which he did with his last RBI single in the ninth). 

"Every time I hit the ball over there it's an out. It happened to be a base hit and an RBI today. The most important thing for me, like I've said, is to feel part of this. I'm just trying to contribute and help win a ballgame." 

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Martinez singled and sent John Hicks to third base to help set the table for the pivotal four-run fourth inning. Hicks scored on a wild pitch. Then after a single by JaCoby Jones, Iglesias lined his fourth home run of the series into the Tigers bullpen in left field.

Iglesias came in hitting a robust .360 in his career against Duffy, and he caused more mayhem against him in the sixth.

"It was really good to see these guys swinging the bats, making plays and developing as players," Iglesias said. "Obviously it's fun to win, but it's more fun to see these young players coming up and giving better at-bats and playing the game the right way."