Detroit – The image of Matthew Boyd dejectedly handing the ball to manager Ron Gardenhire and walking head-down off the field is becoming disturbingly common already this season.
There were positive moments, for sure, but in the end, Boyd, the Tigers’ ace, has an ERA over 10 after four starts.
He was tagged for four runs in the fifth inning, after the Tigers’ had rallied and taken a 5-3 lead, and the White Sox went on to beat the Tigers 7-5 and take the three-game series.
Boyd’s final line – seven runs, seven hits and three walks in 4.2 innings – depicts the struggle, for sure. It started right off the top, losing a 10-pitch battle with leadoff hitter Tim Anderson.
Boyd got ahead 1-2, but Anderson fouled off six straight pitches – fastball, slider, fastball, slider, change-up and fastball. The 10th pitch was another slider and Anderson blasted it into the seats in left.
Eloy Jimenez followed, hitting a 1-2 fastball into the seats in right.
BOX SCORE: White Sox 7, Tigers 5
Boyd regathered and got out of the inning, fanning Jose Abreu and Juan Encarnacion. He was throwing strikes (30 in 39 pitches through three innings), getting swings-and-misses (10 through three innings) and strikeouts (four through three innings).
Anderson, who had four hits on the day and was a double shy of the cycle, got him again in the third with a leadoff triple – a ball that cut stuck under the padding on the left field wall. But other than a couple of walks, Boyd seemed to have righted the ship.
Jonathan Schoop got one run back, hitting a 98-mph fastball from White Sox starter Dylan Cease 433-feet into the shrubs in center field.
Then the Tigers got a break in the fourth. After Jeimer Candelario doubled with one out, Cease and catcher James McCann got crossed up on a two-strike pitch to Victor Reyes. McCann was clearly expecting an off-speed pitch down and instead Cease threw another 97-mph fastball.
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McCann nearly got beaned with it, ducking out of the way at the last instant. Reyes swung and missed but reached first on what was scored a passed ball.
With two outs, Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner, who had been hitless in his first 11 at-bats, shot a two-run double into the gap in right-center to tie the game. Willi Castro, making his 2020 debut, followed with a line-drive home run into the seats in right.
Just like that, Boyd walked back to the mound with a 5-3 lead. A shutdown inning would have salvaged the day for him. But just like his last start in Pittsburgh, he couldn’t get through the fifth.
Anderson led off with a single and with one out, Abreu walked. Boyd was dealt a bit of misfortune against Encarnacion. He froze him with a 2-2 fastball. Replays showed it to be a strike, but home plate umpire Tripp Gibson didn’t give it to him.
On the next pitch, Encarnacion rolled a slow ground ball to shortstop Niko Goodrum. Anderson was running on the play from second base and Goodrum decided to hold the ball rather than risk throwing to first and allowing Anderson to score.
Ended up being a moot point. Boyd got McCann to line out to Goodrum for the second out but rookie Luis Robert hit a first-pitch change-up into the triangle in right-center – a two-run double. Nomar Mazara followed with another double and Boyd’s day was done.
Four of the five balls the White Sox put in play against Boyd in the fifth, including McCann’s scorcher, had exit velocities of 104 mph or better.
Boyd threw 21 sliders total and got just four misses on 12 swings. That pitch had a 44-percent whiff rate last season. The sliders the White Sox put in play were well-struck – a 96-mph average exit velocity. The White Sox punished his four-seam fastball, too – 97-mph exit velocity.
In four starts now, Boyd has given up 22 runs and 30 hits in 19.1 innings.
The loss, which drops the Tigers to 9-7, marred a productive debut for Willi Castro. A shortstop by trade, the Tigers are asking him to fill in at third and possibly second base while Candelario takes over at first for the injured C.J. Cron. Castro had two singles besides his home run and took a hit away from Robert with a quick backhand play in the seventh – forcing McCann at second from the seat of his pants.
But the Tigers offense couldn’t dent the White Sox bullpen. Evan Marshall (1.1 innings) and closer Alex Colome got the last six outs without any drama.