Kansas City, Mo. — If you were a scout watching Matthew Boyd pitch on Saturday — and there were at least three teams represented, including the Rays and Braves — what the heck are you putting in your report?
For four innings Boyd was all but untouchable. He faced the minimum 12 hitters (the one lead-off single erased in a double-play), set down 11 straight hitters and struck out seven of them. He blew through those four innings on 48 pitches, 35 of them strikes, and nine of those swings and misses.
Then for two innings everything changed. He gave up four runs, walked four and needed 45 pitches to get those six outs. He ended up taking the loss as the Royals beat the Tigers for the second straight night, 4-1.
"The walks hurt me, but that really was the only thing that hurt me," Boyd said. "Self-inflicted. Three of the walks came around to score and that was the difference in the game.
"I came out of my delivery for a few innings there, got out of whack, but I got back to it. But walks hurt you. That hasn't been an issue but it was an issue today and it cost us the game."
Boyd’s trouble started in the fifth with a lead-off double by Hunter Dozier — one of two balls that were hit hard off him. Boyd walked Jorge Soler (who came in hitting .429 against him). Bubba Starling, in his second game, rolled his first big-league hit through the hole at shortstop scoring one run.
Nicky Lopez then rolled one through the right side to score another.
The Tigers were not shifted on either of those hits.
In the sixth, Boyd walked three batters — all on 3-2 counts — including left-handed hitting Alex Gordon and, with two outs and third base open, Soler.
"I have my game plan, I know how to attack him and I did what I wanted to (against Soler)," Boyd said. "I threw the pitch I wanted to (a 3-2 slider that missed). I like facing the guy on deck. It was a situation where I was behind in the count to Soler and I wasn't going to give in to him."
The next guy was Chesler Cuthbert who foiled the strategy by rolling another seeing-eye single and scoring two runs.
"That's just the way it shakes out," Boyd said. "Ground balls that are hit, sometimes they are right at guys. It just happens sometimes."
Still, if you are scouting him, you see him go back out and pitch a clean seventh inning, and with his 109th and last pitch, he throws a 92-mph fastball past Adalberto Mondesi for his 10th strikeout.
It's impressive, right?
"He's making pitches," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's more powerful. Matty is doing his thing. He's giving us a chance pretty much every time he goes out there. His fastball is 91-94 and that's kind of setting hitters up, then he's coming in hard. They have no chance on that ball hard and in.
"He knows what he's doing."
Boyd is the first Tigers pitcher since Justin Verlander in 2009 to record at least 10 strikeouts in three straight starts. And in Tigers history, only Hal Newhouser Mickey Lolich, Denny McLain, Verlander and now Boyd have done it.
"That's an honor," Boyd said. "It's cool to be mentioned in that breath. But all in all, the goal is to win. So much of this is out of your control. You can't get wrapped up in everything like that."
Still, it goes in the books as the Tigers' fifth straight loss and their 20th in the last 23 games.
Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller had the Tigers beating the ball into the ground for the better part of eight innings. From the end of the second into the eighth, he had allowed just two hits and set down 18 straight Tigers hitters.
But with two outs, pinch-hitter John Hicks and Jordy Mercer both singled up the middle.
"It was a good day to pitch," Gardenhire said. "With 6 p.m. start (local) and the sun coming off that wall, it was hard for hitters on both teams to pick up spin. But credit him, he used it. He made it tough on us."
Keller, who got 12 ground-ball outs, came in with an 11 percent walk rate and the Tigers barely worked any three-ball counts, let alone draw a walk.
The Tigers only run came on a two-out triple by Harold Castro, scoring Brandon Dixon, in the second inning.