The circumstances of Detroit Tigers first baseman C.J. Cron’s knee injury aren’t anything to smile about, but third baseman Willi Castro, recalled from Toledo when his teammate went to the injured list, did plenty of that in his season debut.
His excitement from a 3-for-4 performance, including a 404-foot two-run homer to take a 5-3 lead in the fourth inning. Across 30 games last year, Castro had a .230 average, one homer and eight RBIs.
Even the 23-year-old’s quick hands and power weren’t enough for the Tigers (9-7), as left-handed starter Matthew Boyd allowed four runs in the fifth to give the Chicago White Sox a 7-5 victory Wednesday at Comerica Park. The White Sox (10-9) took two of three in the series.
[ Whenever the Tigers call shortstop Willi Castro’s name, he’ll be ready ]
In four starts and 19⅓ innings, Boyd has a 10.24 ERA, 1.97 WHIP, 18 strikeouts, eight walks and 22 earned runs.
Mysterious first inning
Boyd hasn’t looked anywhere near ace-status in his three starts leading up to Wednesday’s appearance. Despite flashing moments of what the Tigers have been hoping for, he remains unable to put everything together as he did before last year’s All-Star break.
Manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson blamed the earned runs on his inability to control the pace of the game, even though his average exit velocity is down and his slider is unstable — leading to a significant drop in his strikeout rate (from 30.2% in 2019 to 18.3% this year).
Against the White Sox, his inconsistencies returned in the first inning.
In a 10-pitch battle against leadoff hitter Tim Anderson, Boyd gave up a home run to left field. His offering, a 79.1 mph slider, didn’t break as much as he wanted and stayed in the zone — a perfect pitch for Anderson to turn on. And the next batter, Eloy Jimenez, sent a hanging 93 mph fastball to the seats in right.
But here’s where Boyd’s inning got weird. He followed consecutive homers with consecutive strikeouts against right-handers Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion. Both swinging strikeouts came on 81 mph sliders to the inside corner.
[ Boyd is struggling, but confident he knows how to fix it ]
For the second time this season, second baseman Jonathan Schoop homered to the bushes in center field. The first time he did so was July 27 against an 85 mph change-up from Kansas City Royals pitcher Tyler Zuber. Back in July, his homer went 442 feet.
On Wednesday, he tagged right-hander Dylan Cease’s 98 mph fastball down the middle and sent the ball 433 feet. His homer put the Tigers on the board in the bottom of the first.
[ How Jonathan Schoop models game after Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. ]
Fifth inning mistakes
Boyd made significant improvements in the middle innings, but he gave up four runs in the fifth and was chased before he could finish the frame. With the bases loaded and two outs, he allowed a three-run double to Luis Robert on an 80 mph hanging slider, giving the White Sox a 6-5 lead. And Boyd’s next slider missed over the middle; Nomar Mazara hit an easy RBI double for a two-run edge.
Boyd finished with seven runs allowed on seven hits and three walks in 4⅔ innings with five strikeouts. Of his 90 pitches, 21 went for sliders — earning him 12 swings and four whiffs.
Schreiber stays clean
Needing one more out in the fifth with a runner on second base, Gardenhire turned to right-hander John Schreiber. In just two pitches, the Tigers were trotting off the field. And in the sixth, outside of Anderson’s one-out single, he had no problem cruising past Jimenez and Abreu to shut down the White Sox.
In six games and seven innings this year, Schreiber has only given up three hits. Nobody has scored against him, and he has five strikeouts without any walks.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.