Pearce homer only blemish in otherwise solid outing by Tigers' Boyd

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. – Maybe if it was the regular season, Matthew Boyd wouldn’t challenge right-handed slugger Steve Pearce like he did here Thursday.

The Tigers were leading 3-0. It was the top of the fourth inning and Boyd was cruising. But with a runner on and one out, he fell behind the count 3-1 and threw Pearce a 93-mph two-seam fastball. In the regular season, Boyd may not have thrown a hitter’s pitch in a hitter’s count.

Matthew Boyd

This time, he did. The results weren’t favorable.

"We set up guys a little differently here than maybe we would normally," Boyd said. "Part of that was (catcher Grayson Greiner), working with him for just the second time and part of it was just, spring training.

"But either way, you've got to execute the pitch and I didn't execute the pitch."

Pearce, whose last hit was a clinching home run in Game 5 of the World Series (he was 0-for-12 this spring), bashed it beyond the berm in left field at Publix Field, helping the Red Sox rally back, and the game ended in a 4-4 tie.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, Red Sox 4

"We might do things differently (in the regular season)," Boyd said. "Maybe set up the situation differently. But that's all experience that you learn. I tried to throw a two-seamer down and away.

"Just learn from it. You are learning things and preparing, but it was a good day."

It was the only true blemish on another solid start for Boyd. He threw 64 pitches in five innings, allowed three runs, the other set up by a fly-ball double to left that left fielder Christin Stewart seemed to get a late jump on.

He faced the minimum nine hitters on 31 pitches in the first three innings. His fastball was sitting between 91-93 mph, and he hit 94 four times. Last season, his average velocity was just over 90 mph.

"It's a function of my mechanics and working with Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson)," Boyd said of the spike in his velocity. "We really got back to the fastball at the midpoint last year. I just started to realizing there was another gear. I could get out front more (more extension on his delivery). And when I command the fastball, everything else gets better."

His slider, change-up and curve ball were also sharp Thursday.

"I started getting out front more, started to get a better feel for it and I started letting it go under control," Boyd said. "As the season went on, the velocity went up and now we're just building on it. 

"A lot of credit goes to Rick."

Pearce had a day. In his next at-bat, he broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth with another home run, this one off a 94-mph fastball from right-hander Victor Alcantara.

Aggression with a purpose

The Tigers scored three times off Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez in the second inning, featuring some aggressive base running. Niko Goodrum walked and then scored from first on a double by Jeimer Candelario.

Candelario then tagged and advanced to third base on a fly out to center field by Mikie Mahtook. After Jordy Mercer walked, Grayson Greiner cleared the bases with a double to left.

"We want them to be aggressive," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But we don't want them to run into silly out. Play smart baseball, but we do want to take the extra base when they are given. Don't give away outs."

The Tigers gave away the last out of the game. In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and Dustin Peterson batting, Gordon Beckham was picked off first base.

"What we want is smart baseball, but aggressive baseball," Gardenhire said. "Put pressure on the other team, absolutely."

Game bits

Left-hander Daniel Stumpf, fighting for a bullpen spot, worked himself out of a mess of his own creation in the seventh inning. He walked the leadoff hitter, former Tigers farmhand Gorkys Hernandez. Hernandez stole second (though the call was disputed at second), and then stole third without a throw -- Stumpf never looked at him.

But, Stumpf redeemed himself, striking out the next two hitters, one on a 93-mph fastball and the other on a darting slider. He wound up striking out the side.

... The Tigers tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a single by Ronny Rodriguez. 

Twitter @cmccosky