Matthew Boyd believes he has his mechanics ironed out. Now it’s a matter of putting them into practice and making them consistent.
As Boyd awaits his next start on Saturday night (7:10 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV) against his old nemesis, the Indians, the need for a turnaround couldn’t be
As Boyd awaits his next start on Saturday night (7:10 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV) against his old nemesis, the Indians, the need for a turnaround couldn’t be better — for himself as well as the Tigers.
“Just working on the movements and repeating them,” Boyd said. “It’s really nothing out of the ordinary than any other time, any other year. There’s always things that present themselves. It’s that constant battle to having the awareness to know what I am doing and understanding what I want to do, understanding the cause and effect and just going forward and attacking one pitch a time.
“Once you get to the game, you just attack. You can’t focus on mechanics. That’s when you trust in all the work that you have done. Every day leading up to this, we’ve been working.”
One big advantage for Boyd is that he won’t be facing the White Sox, who led off his past two starts with back-to-back home runs. But as for many Tigers starters, Cleveland has become a thorn in Boyd’s side, having hit him for five home runs last season — all at Progressive Field. Only the Twins homered more often against Boyd last season.
Boyd did not face the Indians during their visit to Comerica Park last weekend, but their ability to work counts and draw walks against Detroit’s other starters — 97 pitches over 4 2/3 innings against Spencer Turnbull, 58 pitches over 2 2/3 innings against Michael Fulmer — puts a premium on Boyd’s ability to attack the strike zone intelligently. Cleveland hit seven homers over the three-game series, including five in last Sunday’s series finale.
“That’s our goal as a pitcher every time,” Boyd said. “We’re not trying to throw it down the middle. We’re trying to throw it at the corners. That stays the same regardless. They’re good hitters. They’ve been a good ballclub for a long time. After Pitch 1, the rest kind of tells itself what to do. The first pitch will tell what the next one should be.”
Given the midgame adjustment Boyd made Monday against the White Sox to work in more changeups, don’t be surprised if more pitches Saturday involve the change of speeds to break up the fastball-slider mix that Indians hitters worked to their advantage last year.
Three of Cleveland’s five home runs off Boyd last year came off his fastball, with one each off a hanging slider and an elevated changeup.
“I don’t talk to him about it, but [pitching coach Rick Anderson] does,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s come by me and telling me things exactly like that: ‘I’ve gotta use all my pitches and get us deeper into the game.’ He knows what he needs to do. He’s been trying to do it. Hopefully he’ll be ready to use all of his pitches from the first inning on. If you don’t against this team, you will get hurt. You’re going to get yourself in a jam.”
Boyd entered Friday with an American League-high eight home runs allowed — four off the fastball, four off his slider — and 25 earned runs. Opponents have a .673 slugging percentage off his fastball (138 points higher than last year) and a .781 slugging rate off his slider (more than double last season), according to Statcast. He allowed just eight home runs off the slider all of last season.
The good news for Boyd? The Indians entered Friday’s series opener batting just .187 with a .313 slugging percentage off left-handed pitchers, and just .169 with a .288 slugging percentage against lefty starters.
• Niko Goodrum returned to the leadoff spot in the Tigers’ lineup Friday, with Jeimer Candelario moving back to fifth, and Gardenhire indicated that he might play matchups for his batting order moving forward.
“We don’t really have a set lineup,” Gardenhire said. “We just kind of ad-lib to each pitcher.”
• Former Indians catcher Eric Haase returned to Cleveland this weekend as a member of the Tigers’ taxi squad. The Detroit-area native was a seventh-round pick by the Indians in the 2011 MLB Draft, and he played in 19 games for them the past two years before the Tigers acquired him last offseason.
• Outfielder Cameron Maybin remains day to day after leaving Thursday’s loss with right hamstring tightness.