Toronto — It only takes one inning to ruin a night. Nobody knows that better than Tigers starter Matthew Boyd.
He was as good, no, as dominant, as he has ever been in four of his five innings Friday night. But one inning, the fourth, got away from him and it ended up being fatal, as the Blue Jays evened the season-opening series with a 6-0 win.
"I feel good about today," Boyd said. "It's unfortunate that it cost me the game, but it's not like I am sitting here with my tail between my legs or anything. Just look at it for what it is.
"I threw the ball pretty well, but I made some mistakes and that's what cost me the game."
Boyd’s first pitch of the game was lashed off the wall in right-center field by Brandon Drury. It should have been a double, but both center fielder Mikie Mahtook and right fielder Nick Castellanos chased the ball to the wall.
Nobody was there to retrieve the carom and Drury sped into third base.
"You're running after a ball you know you are not going to catch," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's where you have to back off and play it off the wall. Mikie just kept running and Nick was running.
"Mikie had a good angle, he wasn't going to catch that ball. You don't just keep running."
Boyd, though, was unfazed. Drury never advanced another base. Boyd struck out Randal Grichuk (swinging through a slider), Justin Smoak (whiffing at two nasty curveballs on a 3-1 and 3-2 count) and Teoscar Hernandez (on three pitches, the last a 92-mph fastball).
Through three innings, had seven strikeouts. At that point, he had posted 13 swings and misses. He would end up with 19 (eight each with the four-seamer and slider). Only twice in his 31 starts last season did Boyd register 13 swinging strikes.
"Those first three innings was probably some of the best stuff I've seen him have," catcher John Hicks said.
He retired the side in order in the fifth with two more strikeouts, giving him 10 in five innings. The triple by Drury was the only baserunner against Boyd in the first, second, third and fifth innings. He was brilliant.
But oh that fourth inning.
It ended up being a 34-pitch inning. His command, so precise the first three innings, eluded him just long enough to beat him. He fell behind six of the eight hitters. After throwing just 10 balls outside the strike zone in the first three inning, he threw 15 balls in the fourth.
"I felt good the whole time," Boyd said. "I made a few mistakes in the fourth trying to overthrow a little bit. Unfortunately, those runs were the deciding factor in the game."
Boyd said the same thing to Gardenhire. He said he knew what he was doing wrong but couldn't correct it quickly enough.
"He's accountable for everything," Gardenhire said. "It was just one of those innings. Too many pitches, got his pitch count way up. He just got himself out of whack. He'll be better for it next time."
The inning started ominously with a five-pitch walk to Grichuk. Boyd then gave up a single to Smoak and an RBI single to Hernandez. That run snapped a run of 13 scoreless innings by the Blue Jays. The last time they started a season with a drought like that was 2004, when the Tigers shut them out for 12 straight innings.
"It looked like he was getting a little quick," Hicks said. "(His front side) was flying open and some pitches were leaking back to the middle, and they weren't doing that in the first three innings."
Boyd seemed to regroup after the Hernandez hit. He struck out Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. and got Kevin Pillar to pop out to second on the first pitch.
It looked at that point like he was going to minimize the damage and escape the inning. Especially when Billy McKinney rolled over a 1-2 slider. But the ball rolled beyond Boyd toward the bag at second and there was no play to be made.
That loaded the bases for Freddy Galvis, who cleared them with a single to center that was turned into a Little League triple by a collection of Tigers misplays.
First Mahtook bobbled the ball in center and had a hard time picking it up off the turf. McKinney had stopped at third, but he broke for home after Mahtook booted it. Mahtook threw the ball to Josh Harrison who relayed it home too late.
Then Hicks threw to third, too late to get Galvis.
Four strong innings blighted by one bad one.
"You can correct it quicker, I just stressed instead of just letting it flow like I was earlier in the game," Boyd said. "Some of those at-bats, I had them set up right, I just really fought myself and overthrew a little bit instead of trusting it.
"That's the difference. I got back to it in the fifth. Unfortunately, those runs were the deciding factor."
But the Tigers margin for error was slim, anyway. For seven innings, Trenton and Eastern Michigan University’s Matt Shoemaker stymied the Tigers hitters. He allowed two hits, both to Castellanos — a double and triple – and struck out seven.
"He pitched really well," Gardenhire said. "He throws the ball where he wants to. He knows how to change speeds. He has a nice slider and that little fork (ball) or whatever it is, it goes straight down. He knows how to spin the ball.
"We had two hits. We didn't do too much offensively, and that was a credit to him."
The Tigers only real scoring chance came after Castellanos tripled with one out in the sixth. But he erased himself from the base. Miguel Cabrera hit a hard ground ball directly at third baseman Drury. Castellanos, with the Tigers down by four runs, hesitated and then broke for home.
He was was out in a three-throw rundown.
"He was supposed to go," Gardenhire said. "Everybody was all the way to the back of the infield and he had a 10-yard lead at third. He was just supposed to go. But the ball was hit toward him and he hesitated.
"If he just goes, they probably don't even make a throw. But he hesitated, then he was in a mess."
The Tigers have scored two runs and struck out 24 times in 19 innings.
"It's early," Gardenhire said. "We've played two ballgames. I'm not going to be alarmed by too awful much right now. That's what happens in this game. Hopefully, we will swing it better as we go along."