“I don’t know,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Tuesday night, after Boyd allowed five runs across 4⅔ in a 10-7 win against the Milwaukee Brewers. “I mean, I’m not sure ‘struggles’ is fair to him.”
Boyd allowed a 1.94 ERA, 30 hits, nine walks and 29 strikeouts, with one home run allowed, in 41⅔ innings over his first seven starts. In his past four starts, he posted a 7.84 ERA, 25 hits, nine walks and 22 strikeouts, with five home runs allowed, in 20⅔ innings. His season-long ERA jumped from 1.94 to 3.90.
Hinch isn’t concerned.
“I think (his starts aren’t) as dominant as he’s been to begin with,” Hinch said. “I’d have to look at the numbers you’re probably looking at. I think he’s a competent pitcher. He hasn’t been perfectly sharp, nobody is for an entire first half, let alone an entire season.”
And Boyd, 30, definitely isn’t worried.
“Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t,” Boyd said. “Sometimes one or two pitches will dictate the line on an outing and may not tell the whole story. … I’m not going to go home and try to change anything.”
Tuesday against the Brewers, Boyd gave up three of six homers he’s allowed in 2021. Of Milwaukee’s five hits against him, three went beyond the fence; a problem Boyd has struggled with in the past.
He led the American League with 39 home runs allowed in 2019. He then paced MLB with 15 home runs allowed in the shortened 2020 season. He has given up 1.6 home runs per nine innings in his seven-year big-league career.
“I threw a few bad sliders to (Eddie) Rosario,” Boyd said about his May 27 start against Cleveland, where he allowed four runs in five innings. “Unfortunately, that led to two runs, and it changes the complexion of how you look at an outing. Today, (Kolten) Wong got me a couple times. That changes the complexion of how you look at an outing.”
Wong tagged him for his first of two homers to open the first inning, hitting a 1-1 slider to the right-field seats. Tyrone Taylor smacked a 3-2 changeup in the second for his first of two home runs on the day, giving the Brewers their second run. And Wong chipped in the third and final homer off Boyd — a two-run shot — on a first-pitch slider in the third.
The fifth run Boyd conceded came on Avisail Garcia’s RBI double. After that at-bat and 95 pitches (55 strikes), Hinch brought in Joe Jimenez from the bullpen. Entering Tuesday, Boyd had thrown 69% of 884 pitches for strikes this season. But against the Brewers, just 58% of 95 pitches went for strikes.
“The only hits I gave up after the three home runs, it was a broken-bat single from (Christian) Yelich and a fastball that I missed on to Garcia, and the other three (hits) were the home runs. And it was two to Wong, so I kind of put that guy in his own category. He’s a guy I usually beat with breaking balls, and he hit mine today.
“Walked a couple guys, and there’s a couple home runs that the walk led to the home run. You take that out, and it’s a whole different game.”
Yet Boyd can’t take back his three walks and three home runs.
Luckily, the Tigers sunk the Brewers with a barrage of their own home runs. Milwaukee finished with five home runs; Detroit had four. There were four players with two-homer performances: Eric Haase, Jonathan Schoop, Wong and Taylor.
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Haase blasted lead-off home runs in the second and third innings. Schoop pelted his home runs in the second and sixth innings. Miguel Cabrera made an impact in the second inning, as well, driving in three runs on a double to the gap in right-center field.
“Anytime I can put that jersey on and go out there and compete with these guys, I take a lot of pride in that,” said Haase, who graduated from Dearborn Divine Child in Michigan. “When we’re at home, it legitimately feels like the city’s pulling for us. Starting to be exciting again for Tigers baseball.”
Haase caught Boyd’s (rocky) start.
“Not really (fighting anything),” Haase said. “I mean, he was just missing with a lot of close pitches. Inches. We probably missed five or six inside fastballs. Jose (Navas, home plate umpire) was doing a great job back there. They were balls. One after another, just, ‘Boom, boom.’ Very consistent. That’s how we were falling behind hitters.”
Boyd gave his evaluation of Tuesday’s work.
“I don’t want to say it was good,” Boyd said. “Wasn’t a train wreck or anything. There’s stuff to grow and keep getting better in.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.