The Tigers offense took a steep fall from Friday night’s 10-run, 13-hit night in Cleveland that led to their first victory over the Indians in 499 days.
A sense of optimism was palpable heading into Saturday night’s pursuit to win back-to-back games against the Tribe, but a four-run sixth inning for the Indians turned out to be the knockout punch that Detroit couldn’t recover from in Saturday’s 6-1 loss.
Veteran vs. Rookie
The inconsistencies that plagued Matthew Boyd through his first five starts of 2020 were bleeding into his command, rhythm, mechanics, and mentality on the mound.
For the first time in 2020, we saw Boyd rediscover his groove in a pitchers duel with the Indians’ Tristan Mckenzie, who made a sparkling big league debut allowing just two hits and one solo homer in six innings pitched. His 10 strikeouts were the second most by any Indians pitcher in their MLB debut, trailing only Luis Tiant (11 in 1964).
Mckenzie located his fastball exceptionally well, throwing 80% of his heaters for strikes through the first five ⅔ innings of his unforgettable debut. He gave out just 98 free passes in 330 innings of work in the minors, which was indicative of his willingness to attack the strike zone, and we saw that fearless nature on display in his opening act.
The 23-year-old claimed his first career victory, while Boyd dropped to 0-4, but there were notable improvements for Detroit’s left-hander.
Afterward, Boyd admirably tipped his cap to the youngster.
“It’s impressive, I mean he got a lot of strikeouts with fastballs in the zone, and I think that tells you how electric his stuff is,” Boyd said about Mckenzie. “Hats off to him. He pitched really, really well tonight and to do that in debut, that’s impressive.”
Silver Linings for Boyd
Boyd kept his pitch count to 27 through the first two innings, notable because he was up to 33 through the end of one in his previous start vs. White Sox.
Boyd worked at a quicker, more rhythmic pace, something he and pitching coach Rick Anderson have harped on as an area of improvement.
“That was the Matty Boyd that we’ve seen,” said manager Ron Gardenhire. “That’s the good Matty Boyd. He was in command.”
The left-hander began to work in his changeup in towards the latter stages of his previous start against the White Sox, and then, evidently, came out on Saturday intending to utilize it on a more frequent basis.
We saw four changeups in the first inning alone on Saturday–compare that to just eight in 90 pitches during his previous start.
Boyd told the Detroit media afterward that his changeup was his best pitch growing up, and then pointed out his newfound willingness to use it more often with a rather tasty analogy.
“It’s just been like, ‘Hey, We’ve got chocolate cake in the fridge with my slider,” said Boyd. I gotta stop eating it so much. I know there’s other stuff in there that we can go to as well.”
Out of Boyd’s 90 pitches, he dipped into the fridge and found 23 changeups, 10 were sliders.
Hopefully, the variety, command, and confidence that was on display is a sign of Matthew Boyd moving in the right direction and regaining the form that earned him a top spot in the Tigers’ rotation entering this season.
LHP Tarik Skubal (0-1,18.00 ) makes his second career start for the Tigers against Cleveland’s veteran right-hander Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 3.71) Sunday at 1:10 PM.