No happy ending for Boyd again as Tigers take it on the chin

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd throws against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning.

Minneapolis — It didn’t end well for Matthew Boyd. But then again, that’s kind of his thing.

Inexplicably, Boyd has never pitched well in his final start of any season since putting on a Tigers’ uniform.  Wednesday was no exception.

He was tagged with six runs and eight hits (three home runs) in 3 2/3 innings in the Tigers’ 11-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

"He's been great," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's a competitor. He never wants to come out of a ballgame. No one will feel worse than him about this ballgame. And he will come back out and try to figure out how to make it better.

"That's kind of who he is and what he does."

BOX SCORE: Twins 11, Tigers 4

The sad litany of season-ending starts for Boyd:

•2015 at Texas, six runs on seven hits (three home runs) in 2 2/3 innings.

•2016 against the Royals, he faced five batters and didn’t record an out, four runs.

•2017 again here at Target Field, five runs on seven hits (two homers) in five innings.

Here’s the thing about Boyd, though. He’s never let these final starts, or any individual start, define his season. In fact, the way he processes it, there is no season-ending start.

“It’s not like I am going to start fresh at the end of the year,” he said. “I feel like we’ve gotten better every single start this year. Compared to where we were at the start of the year, to where we are now, it’s awesome.

“And it’s got to continue to be moving forward. I don’t want to close a book after this start and say, ‘OK, now we start a new one.’ ”

Boyd never seemed to find his rhythm in this one. He walked three hitters and fell behind half of the 20 hitters he faced. His slider, a pitch he’s limited hitters to a .174 average with, wasn’t effective. No fastball command and no feel for the slider — a recipe for trouble.

"I didn't make the adjustments that I needed to," he said. "It was mechanics. I was fighting myself out there and wasn't able to command the baseball. It was just a constant fight trying to get back to what I wanted to do and what I had been doing."

He gave up a two-run home run to Tyler Austin (slider) in the first. And he gave up a pair of home runs to light-hitting Johnny Field — a solo home run on the first pitch of the second inning (fastball) and a two-run homer in the fourth (change-up) after the Tigers had rallied and tied the score 4-4.

"That last one was tough," Gardenhire said. "We'd come back and tied the game and he goes out and just couldn't make a pitch. It was frustrating for him and for us."

Final start notwithstanding, the 2018 season was a step forward for Boyd. His 158 strikeouts were the most by a Tigers left-hander since Mickey Lolich fanned 202 in 1974. Entering his final start, he ranked seventh in opponents’ batting average (.222) and eighth in WHIP (1.12).

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He had 15 quality starts.

“I know what the foundation of my game is,” he said. “This might sound kind of arrogant, but I don’t feel like I ever got beat, I just got better. I know when I go out there, I know what I promise myself. I promise I will attack with every single pitch. If I don’t attack with every single pitch, then I know there is something to go back and re-establish.

“But if I do attack with every single pitch and leave it all out there — that’s all I can do. I can’t promise myself a nine-inning shutout. I can’t promise that I will punch out 15 hitters. Just attack. And I know if I do, more often than not, I will be in the spot I want to be in.”

Rookie Christin Stewart knocked in a pair of runs for the Tigers. He tripled in a run in the first and hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth. On his triple, third-base coach Dave Clark waived him home but he was thrown out by several feet.

Niko Goodrum and James McCann each had RBI singles.

"I was very happy with my season," Boyd said. "I grew a ton. And just wait. I am going to keep going."

Twitter @cmccosky