Matt Boyd keeps his cool, offense busts loose as Tigers beat Red Sox in Game 1
Boston — You know when a black cat crosses your path, it's supposed to be bad luck, right?
Well, if Chris Sale's intentions were to intimidate or fluster Matthew Boyd before the game Tuesday, they failed. Back-fired, actually.
"Oh, you noticed that," Boyd said, with a smile. "That was, yeah..."
As a normal part of his pre-game warm-up regimen, Boyd was in right field throwing long-toss with bullpen catcher Tim Remes.
Red Sox starter Sale, as if Boyd was trodding on his turf, walked straight through Boyd's path, not even acknowledging Boyd or the fact that a baseball was being thrown back and forth from about 100 feet.
Undaunted, Boyd never broke rhythm, just elevated his next throw so it went over Sale's head.
Remes was steamed, but Boyd never said a word. Instead, he went out and beat the Red Sox, allowing three runs and three hits over a strong seven inning in the Tigers' 7-4 victory in the first of two games.
"Gary (catcher Grayson Greiner) called a great game, we played good defense, I mean, this was a great team win," said Boyd, who didn't want to comment about Sale's gamesmanship. "To come out and score runs off that pitching staff like that — our hitters, we believe in them.
"That was pretty cool."
Your Tigers hitting stars were the unlikely trio of Ronny Rodriguez, Josh Harrison and Grayson Greiner. They combined for seven hits and six RBIs.
Rodriguez, getting the start at shortstop, doubled twice and hit a home run to left field off Sale that cleared the Green Monster and flew out of Fenway Park.
Harrison, who was mired in a 2-for-32 slump and was dropped out of the leadoff spot, had two hits, including a two-run double that broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the eighth.
Greiner homered, also off Sale, and had an RBI single in the Tigers three-run eighth. Greiner went 171 at-bats without hitting his first big-league home run before breaking the seal on Friday. Then he hit two in three at-bats.
"I have moved back away from the plate a little bit, so I am not tying myself up as much," Greiner said. "And I'm trying to treat every pitch like I have two strikes. Just a two-strike approach even if there aren't two strikes. That shortens your swing. For the last week or so, that's been paying dividends for me."
It was a tip from Hall-of-Famer Alan Trammell that unleashed Rodriguez's power stroke. Rodriguez said he watched film of Trammell from 1984 and noticed how much power he got from a closed stance.
"I asked him, 'What do you think about it?'" Rodriguez said.
Trammell worked with Rodriguez, who always used a wide open stance with a big leg kick, and got him to close his stance and calmed his leg kick. As a result, he's able to get the barrel on pitches on both sides of the plate.
He hit four home runs this spring after hitting five in 206 at-bats last season. He doubled off a high fastball from Sale, then homered off a slider.
"I was just ready for the game," Rodriguez said. "Gardy (manager Ron Gardenhire) told me yesterday I was playing today, so I was ready.
"I'm just enjoying it, trying to take advantage of the opportunity."
Gardenhire loved the offense, for sure, but he thought Rodriguez's defense was more vital.
"We know he can swing it," Gardenhire said. "But making the plays at shortstop and starting those double plays were really important."
Rodriguez, who didn't play defense in his time at Triple-A Toledo this season, went deep into the hole to track a ground ball by J.D. Martinez in the first inning and started a 6-4-3 double-play. He ended the fourth doing the same thing against a faster runner — Michael Chavis.
"Huge," said Boyd. "It's the reason I was able to go as deep as I did on 87 pitches. And J-Hay, too (second baseman Harrison) — he's got some quick hands, man. He really turned those."
The Tigers turned three double-plays in the game.
"When we sent Ronny down in spring training, I told him, he just has to catch the ball and get an out," Gardenhire said. "So, I was really happy with that today. He made some nice plays out there.
"It's a start."
Other than allowing a home run to Xander Bogaerts, who hit two on the day, Boyd was only in trouble in one inning. He put runners at second and third and nobody out in the third inning.
And he nearly pitched out of it. He got two ground ball outs in two pitches, holding the runners — one was to third base and the other back at him. But, Mookie Betts followed with a two-run single.
It came off the first curveball Boyd threw. But he didn't give up on the pitch, and it ended up being effective for him later in the game.
"You go out and attack and whatever you got, ten pitches from now it could be even better," Boyd said. "This probably wasn't the best stuff I've had, but we adapted and it was way better in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings than it was in the first and second innings."
Boyd, as he typically does, gave Greiner the credit for staying with the game plan. But Greiner gave it right back.
"I don't think his stuff was that bad," Greiner said. "He got into some bad counts a couple of times, there were a couple of blips on the radar, but overall, he threw the ball well. He didn't have his curveball and change-up a whole lot, but he was able to battle with his fastball and slider."
It's called maturity — and Boyd showed it from his pre-game long-toss through his clean, eight-pitch seventh inning.