Detroit — Maybe it’s a split-personality thing with Matthew Boyd. Because the left-handed pitcher wearing No. 48 Tuesday scarcely resembled the guy who got tagged for seven runs and needed 78 pitches to get nine outs a week ago against the Brewers.
This Boyd, the one who helped the Tigers snap the Kansas City Royals’ six-game win streak 6-0 Tuesday looked like the ace of staff the Tigers have been waiting to see this season.
Boyd blanked the Royals on two hits over 5⅔ innings, recording five strikeouts and getting 11 swings and misses and 14 called strikes. He did walk four, including the last two hitters he faced in the sixth inning. But none led to any damage.
Two at-bats helped shape the night for Boyd.
BOX SCORE: Tigers 6, Royals 0
Whit Merrifield, as he seems to always do against the Tigers, led off the game with a double. He stole third base but with one out tried to score standing up on a ground ball to shortstop. Willi Castro’s throw got to catcher Austin Romine in plenty of time.
Boyd wasn’t out of the soup just yet. He walked Maikel Franco, losing an eight-pitch battle, but got Hunter Dozier to ground out to end the inning.
In the third inning, Salvador Perez doubled with two outs. The Tigers were up 3-0 and first base as open. When Boyd fell behind Franco 3-0, it seemed he would just use the open base and pitch around the dangerous Franco.
Boyd did no such thing. He got himself back in the count with a fastball (called strike) and a slider (swing and miss). After fouling off a 3-2 fastball, Franco was out front on a change-up and flew gently to center.
The speed differential on Boyd’s last two pitches to Franco was 14 mph — 92 on the fastball and 78 on the change-up.
That was the first of 10 straight outs for Boyd.
What had failed him against the Brewers was his best weapon in this one — his fastball command. He spotted his four-seamer (91-93 mph) in all quadrants of the plate. He threw 58 of them and got three swing-and-misses and 12 called strikes.
He got five whiffs with 26 change-ups, and he mixed in 11 sliders and 10 curveballs. The average exit velocity on 14 balls put in play against him was a mild 89 mph.
The Tigers offense gave him plenty of cushion, too.
The Royals made a last-minute pitching change before the game, starting right-hander Jakub Junis in place of lefty Danny Duffy, who missed the team plane to Detroit. Junis had won five straight starts at Comerica Park, but this wasn’t the same guy the Tigers had faced in the past.
They pounced on early, scoring three times in the first inning on a two-out, RBI single by Niko Goodrum, first game back off the injured list, and a two-run single by former Royal Jorge Bonifacio.
The Tigers knocked Junis out of the game in the third. Miguel Cabrera whacked a 90-mph fastball into the right-field seats. It was the 483rd home run of his career and sixth of the season. Cabrera walked three times and doubled in the game. His double left his bat with an exit velocity of 112 mph — the hardest he’s hit a ball since 2018.
Jeimer Candelario, fresh off American League Player of the Week honors, and Goodrum followed Cabrera’s homer with singles to end Junis’ night. Candelario, who scored on a sacrifice fly by Austin Romine, had three hits and raised his batting average to .333.
Castro got a vote of confidence from the organization earlier in the day when manager Ron Gardenhire announced that Goodrum, who had started 29 games at shortstop, would be playing at second base. That meant Castro would remain at shortstop.
He responded with three hits, including his fourth home run of the year — an opposite-field blast off reliever Matt Harvey in the sixth inning. Castro raised his average to .352.
The Tigers’ bullpen was flawless, too. Jose Cisnero cleaned up the sixth inning for Boyd and pitched and struck out the side in the seventh. Buck Farmer and Bryan Garcia worked scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively, completing the Tigers’ first shutout of the season.
The win snapped a three-game losing skid for the Tigers (21-26).