Detroit — In the end, it didn't matter. The losing streak continues — at nine games and counting now after the Miami Marlins scored five unearned runs in the top of the ninth Thursday to steal a win from the Tigers, 5-2.
But if you think these players aren't burning to put an end to this mess, you didn't watch Matthew Boyd pitch Thursday afternoon.
“Boyd’s doing his thing, man," right fielder Nick Castellanos said. "He’s just continuing to progress every single time he takes the ball. He does his job and gives us a chance to win. That’s all we can ask.”
It was a scoreless game for 5 1/2 innings largely thanks to Boyd's mettle.
After giving up a pair of one-out singles in the fourth inning, he thought he’d made the perfect pitch to get out of the fourth inning. He got Martin Prado to roll over a fastball, hitting what looked to be an inning-ending double-play grounder to shortstop.
But Gordon Beckham bobbled the ball and his flip to second base was late — bases loaded.
Boyd, though, was unfazed. He struck out Neil Walker with a 92-mph fastball — that after he didn't get a borderline call from umpire D.J. Reyburn on the previous pitch.
Then, against Jorge Alfaro, Boyd channeled his inner-Justin Verlander, striking him out on three straight fastballs, each one firmer than the previous — 92, 94 and 95 mph.
"You just attack one pitch at a time," said Boyd, who struck out seven in his six innings. "Every swing dictates what you are going to do next. He was late, so I went to the fastball again.
"He was late again, so I did it again. That's how it worked out."
Boyd said despite the losing streak, he didn't sense any tension or unraveling in the clubhouse.
"Guys have the right mentality in here," he said. "Losing isn't fun. But it's baseball. The possibilities for this team are still endless. One, we haven't been healthy. That's not an excuse, but even with the injuries, we've played competitive games.
"I know we can continue to move forward. It's not going to change anything. We're going to come out tomorrow and do our thing."
Pros and cons of aggression
When you aren’t hitting a lot of home runs and you are struggling to string enough hits together to produce runs — which has been the Tigers way most of the season — you sometimes try to force the issue.
It had happened with bad results in the second inning. With two outs, Christin Stewart squibbed one off the end of his bat that rolled through the vacated left side of the over-shifted Marlins infield for a single.
Brandon Dixon followed with a screaming line drive over Garrett Cooper’s head and off the right field wall. Third-base coach Dave Clark waved Stewart home. The relay throw to the plate from second baseman Starlin Castro beat Stewart by some 20 feet.
"We've said, the only way we are going to get through this thing is by being aggressive," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The aggressive move by Clark might have been facilitated by the fact that there were two outs and Grayson Greiner, mired in a 4-for-41 slump, was due up.
Still, It was the 18th time the Tigers have had a runner thrown out on the bases this season.
But in the bottom of the sixth, an aggressive dash by Niko Goodrum broke a scoreless tie.
Goodrum singled with one out. After falling behind 0-2 and working the count for seven pitches, Castellanos dumped a double into right field. The Marlins then walked Miguel Cabrera intentionally — his first intentional pass of this season.
Ronny Rodriguez then hit a sinking line drive to left field.
Goodrum had taken a couple steps toward the plate, but hurried back to tag and aggressively bolted for home. Left fielder Austin Dean had to slide to make the catch, which gave Goodrum just enough time to slide in ahead of the throw.
So, one out of two ain't bad?
Around the horn
Gardenhire said he wouldn't announce the Tigers' starting pitcher for Saturday's game against the Mets until after Friday's game. It's possible left-hander Ryan Carpenter could get another spot start, but that is not official.
... Another game, another couple of hits and another move up the all-time hits ladder for Miguel Cabrera. His two hits move him past Carlos Beltran and Chipper Jones into 60th place with 2,727 hits. He has hit safely in six of his last seven games, hitting .429 over that stretch.
On deck: Mets
Series: Three games, Friday-Sunday, at Citi Field, New York
First pitch: Friday — 7:10 p.m.; Saturday — 4:10 p.m.; Sunday — 1:10 p.m.
TV/radio: All games on FSD/97.1
Probables: Friday – RHP Noah Syndergaard (3-4, 4.50) vs. LHP Gregory Soto (0-2, 10.80); Saturday – LHP Jason Vargas (1-2, 5.92) vs. TBA; Sunday – RHP Zack Wheeler (2-3, 2.68) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-3, 4.74).
Syndergaard, Mets: He seems back on track after a rough April. In his last four starts, he’s 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA, striking out 24 with four walks. Opponents are hitting .210 against him in May. His 97-mph sinker has been inconsistent, though. Opponents are hitting .324 against it and slugging .527.
Soto,Tigers: He looked a lot more comfortable in his last start, striking out three of the first seven hitters he faced. But he’s still leaving too many pitches in the middle of the plate. His dominant pitch is a 94-mph sinker, but it’s getting hit at a .393 clip. If he can throw his slider or change-up for strikes, he will get hitters off that sinker.