The Detroit Tigers got on a plane Sunday night, after getting swept by Cleveland in a three-game series, with plenty of improvements to make. They were on a four-game losing streak with seven games left in a daunting 10-game road trip.
Through two games against the Houston Astros, the woes of the last series have been — for the most part — forgotten. That’s because the Tigers delivered back-to-back convincing victories against one of the best teams in the major leagues.
On Tuesday, the Tigers (5-6) picked up an 8-2 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park, thanks to five home runs from four players and 6⅔ innings from left-handed starter Matthew Boyd. It’s the first series victory in Houston for the Tigers since May 2013.
After Boyd departed, right-hander Bryan Garcia got the final out in the seventh and tossed a scoreless eighth inning. Lefty Derek Holland got the ninth inning but gave up one run.
Through two games in the series, the Tigers have 14 runs on 23 hits and eight walks.
Detroit takes on Houston at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday in the series finale with a chance to sweep. Right-hander Michael Fulmer is starting, opposed by Lance McCullers Jr.
Weak contact for Matthew Boyd
For the second game in a row, the Tigers started the seventh inning with their starter on the mound. Following Casey Mize’s dominant seven shutout innings, Boyd nearly went as deep.
Boyd was the best he has been in quite some time. He gave up one run on six hits and one walk, with four strikeouts, and used 100 pitches (67 strikes).
In the second inning, Myles Straw singled to drive in Houston’s lone run, but it was two weak hits — from Yordan Alvarez (.120 expected batting average) and Yuli Gurriel (.090 expected batting average) — that set up Boyd’s only blemish.
Of Boyd’s 100 pitches, he used 42 two-seam fastballs, 27 sliders, 20 changeups, seven curveballs and four two-seam fastballs. He got nine swings-and-misses: four with his four-seamer, two with his slider and three with his changeup.
Boyd chipped in 18 called strikes.
Only one of Boyd’s six hits allowed — a single from Jose Altuve at 102.6 mph — had an exit velocity above 100 mph. Boyd mostly got weak contact and allowed his defense to work behind him. Similar to Mize’s performance Monday, he refused to chase strikeouts and consistently pounded the strike zone.
Through three starts and 19⅓ innings, Boyd has a 2-1 record with a 1.86 ERA. He has not allowed a home run after leading the AL in homers each of the past two seasons.
HR magic continues
Rule 5 draft pick Akil Baddoo continued the magnificent start to his MLB career with a game-tying solo home run in the third inning. Despite falling behind 1-2 in the count against Astros starter Jake Odorizzi, he worked a full count before stabbing at a splitter.
The ball flew 348 feet, clearing the left-center field wall. It was his fourth homer in eight games this season.
In Monday’s 6-2 series-opening win, Baddoo launched a 450-foot home run and chipped in a double. On Tuesday, the 22-year-old — who entered this season with no appearances above High-A — went 2-for-4 with one RBI and one strikeout.
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Baddoo is the first Tigers player — and one of six players in MLB history — to drive in a run in at least six of his first eight career games since Don Ross in 1931. And he is the only Tiger to record four homers in his first eight big-league games. Also, Baddoo already has 10 RBIs.
In the fourth inning, Nomar Mazara cranked a two-run homer on a 2-2 count for a 3-1 lead.
Mazara’s home run marked his second in 11 games for the Tigers. Last year, the 25-year-old had one long ball in 42 games with the Chicago White Sox after hitting at least 19 in each of his first four MLB seasons, from 2016-19 with the Texas Rangers.
But the Tigers weren’t done in the fourth inning. After a single from Jonathan Schoop, who has struggled to post competitive at-bats this season, Nunez homered for the second straight game. He gave his team a 5-1 lead with his 381-foot shot.
Then, Baddoo’s single chased Odorizzi with one out in the fourth inning. He gave up five runs on seven hits, with no walks and four strikeouts, in his first start this season after signing late in spring training.
Wilson Ramos joined the home-run parade in the fifth inning against righty reliever Bryan Abreu. His two-run homer — his fifth this season — granted the Tigers a 7-1 lead. He added another home run in the top of the ninth, making him the MLB lead ahead of Byron Buxton, J.D. Martinez, Ryan McMahon and Tyler Naquin, who each have homers.
Ramos needed just nine appearances to hit six homers, after hitting five in 45 games last season for the New York Mets.
Willi Castro scuffling
While his teammates are belting home runs, shortstop Willi Castro is going through a slump to begin his third season.
Across his last four games, Castro is 1-for-17 with one walk and five strikeouts. Through 11 games this season, he has a .196 batting average, one extra-base hit and one RBI, with two walks and 12 strikeouts.
Last season, Castro hit .349 with six homers and 24 RBIs through 36 games — giving him a fourth-place finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting. In 2019, his debut campaign, he hit .230 with one homer and eight RBIs in 30 games.