Detroit Tigers’ Matthew Boyd pitches gem but offense absent in 2-1 loss to Royals

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd pitched well enough Saturday to beat the Kansas City Royals. The same was true in last week’s start against the Oakland Athletics, which ended in a 3-2 loss to conclude the team’s up-and-down 10-game road trip.

And Boyd didn’t get the win this time, either. Neither did the Tigers.

The Tigers (7-14) were handed a 2-1 loss Saturday by the Royals, losing for the eighth time in nine games. They failed to make contact, especially hard contact, against Royals starter Brady Singer, selected No. 18 overall in the 2018 draft — after the Tigers’ Casey Mize went No. 1 overall.

Detroit has scored just 18 runs (with 89 strikeouts) in its last nine games. On Saturday, the team finished with one run runs, three hits, zero walks and 11 strikeouts in 30 at-bats. Besides a solo homer, not a single Tiger advanced past first base.

GAME 1: Another weak offensive showing from Tigers in 6-2 loss to Royals

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Detroit takes on Kansas City at 1:10 p.m. Sunday for the third matchup in the four-game series. Right-hander Michael Fulmer is starting, opposed by lefty Danny Duffy.

Manager AJ Hinch previously said Cabrera (left biceps strain) would be activated from the injured list this weekend. Hinch explained that Cabrera could decide whether he wanted to return Saturday or Sunday. He took batting practice Saturday but wasn’t in the lineup.

When asked why Cabrera wasn’t activated for the game, Hinch didn’t expand on the topic: “We’re not hiding anything from you guys. We’ll get him in there when we feel like he’s ready to play.”

Eight strong innings

Through eight innings, Boyd was brilliant. He gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits. The 30-year-old did not allow a walk and recorded three strikeouts. His efficiency was superb, as well, needing just 89 pitches (69 strikes) against the 27 batters he faced.

Boyd was perfect through four innings, and the only damage against him came in the fifth frame.

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There was a chance he could’ve escaped the fifth without allowing any runs. With runners one first and third and one out, Andrew Benintendi grounded into a force out. First baseman Jonathan Schoop — without touching first base — tossed to shortstop Willi Castro, who tagged out Hanser Alberto. No double play was turned, allowing  Jorge Soler, who doubled to leadoff the fifth for the first hit off Boyd, to trot home for the game’s first run.

While that run was understandable, the next run occurred because of a mistake in fundamentals.

The next batter, Michael A. Taylor, singled to right fielder Victor Reyes. Reyes tried to throw out Benintendi at third base but made a poor throw. The ball went past third baseman Jeimer Candelario, and Benintendi broke toward home before the Tigers could clean up their mishap.

Of Boyd’s 89 pitches, he offered 45 four-seam fastballs, 21 changeups, 14 sliders, six curveballs and three sinkers. He got nine swings-and-misses and 15 called strikes.

A birthday homer

On his 24th birthday, Willi Castro delivered his first home run this season on an 0-2 slider from Singer. He pummeled the ball to the right-field seats, putting the Tigers on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth inning.

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Castro did not play Friday’s series opener against the Royals because Hinch gave him a “mental day” to focus. He had been struggling at the plate and in the infield — both at shortstop and second base. He has a .216 batting average in 19 games.

Singer, 24, pitched seven innings to lead the Royals to a victory. He gave up one run on three hits, zero walks and eight strikeouts. He threw 93 pitches for 65 strikes. As a two-pitch starter, Singer worked his sinker 66 times and slider 27 times for 15 swings-and-misses and 17 called strikes.

Baddoo moves up

Hinch switched up his struggled lineup by moving Rule 5 draft pick Akil Baddoo to the No. 2 spot in the batting order. Through his first 15 games in the majors this season, the rookie has hit seventh (five games), eighth (eight games) and ninth (two games).

“Right now, I’m looking for any kind of energy and any kind of production, just something different than what we’re doing over and over,” Hinch said before the game. “I tend to try to stick with the top guys, even when they struggle. … Honestly, just looking for a spark.”

It was another lifeless performance from the offense. Baddoo went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and he is down to a .265 batting average after an unbelievable start to his career. The top three batters in the lineup — Robbie Grossman, Baddoo and Jeimer Candelario — combined for nine of the team’s 11 strikeouts.

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Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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