Detroit — It’s not often the Tigers have had a big first inning this season.
It’s not often they've had big offensive explosions in any inning.
Until Friday, they had scored seven runs all season in the opening inning.
The good starts have been rare.
But that changed Friday as the Tigers scored three runs against Kansas City to take a quick lead, sparking them to a 4-3 victory over the Royals at Comerica Park.
Pitcher Matt Boyd (3-2) was the beneficiary of the early offense, going seven innings for his third victory.
“The team comes out like that, hangs three runs in the first, it’s nice to pitch with that,” Boyd said.
Miguel Cabrera had an RBI single (scoring Jeimer Candelario, who reached base for the 16th consecutive game), Ronny Rodriguez brought in a run on a force out, and Rodriguez later scored on a wild pitch as the Tigers took a 3-0 lead.
“A good first inning, it was great to get some runs and get Boydie a bit of cushion,” said Gordon Beckham, who had two hits. “It’s good (after) a long road trip, to come back and get the right back on the ball. We looked good, we played the game very well. Definitely exciting tonight to get the win.”
As usual, or at least it seemed that way in April, reliever Shane Greene came on to earn his 13th save. Joe Jimenez pitched a flawless eighth inning to get it to Greene.
Greene, who was named American League reliever of the month earlier in the day, has converted all 13 of his save opportunities this season.
“He’s good, he’s healthy, and we put him in a lot of games early but that means we’re winning games,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s got good stuff. The ball is jumping out of his hand.”
But Greene wasn't as spotless as he's been mostly this season.
Jorge Soler hit a one-out home run to deep left-center field off Greene, cutting the Tigers' lead to 4-3 in the ninth. Then with two outs, pinch-hitter Ryan O'Hearn doubled into the right-field corner.
But Greene got Martin Maldonado to pop out for the game's final out.
“You can’t throw it there,” Greene said of the pitch to Soler. “I paid for it. But one pitch at a time, and got the job done.”
In 15 innings this season, Greene has allowed three runs and eight hits while striking out 19 hitters (only walking three).
Greene leads the league in saves and is the first Tigers relief pitcher to win the award since it began in 2017.
“It’s cool to talk about but there’s still a lot of baseball left to play,” Greene said. “So, just show up every day and be ready to pitch.”
The Tigers’ fourth run, which turned out to be the game-winner, came in the third inning.
Rodriguez lined an RBI double to score Nicholas Castellanos, who began the third inning with a walk.
Cabrera led the still-middling attack with three of the Tigers' eight hits, all singles.
Rodriguez and Gordon Beckham each had two hits and Castellanos, who stretched his hit streak to seven games, had the other hit.
Boyd took advantage of the quick start with another fine outing.
Going seven innings, Boyd only allowed five hits and two earned runs with one walk and nine strikeouts. Of his 102 pitches, Boyd threw 77 strikes and he only ran into trouble in one inning.
Boyd allowed the Royals leadoff hitter to reach base in three of the first four innings, but it didn't hurt him until the fourth when Alex Gordon was hit by a pitch, moved to third base on a single, and scored on Soler's sacrifice fly.
Kelvin Gutierrez's triple scored the other run, cutting the Tigers lead to 4-2, but Boyd struck out two consecutive hitters to end the Royals' rally.
“He’s good, he works fast and keeps the guys in the ball game,” Gardenhire said of Boyd. “His pitch count got up early, but he had a couple of good innings to get it back. We needed him out there. That’s huge, getting us into the second half of the game.”