Corey Seager’s blast, red-hot Rangers stall Tigers’ climb to .500

Detroit News

Detroit — As Matthew Boyd said afterward, hindsight is 20-20 and it’s certainly easier to second-guess than it is to first-guess. But there was no ducking the bottom-line Monday after the Tigers were beaten by the scorching-hot Texas Rangers, 5-0, in the first of three at Comerica Park.

“I threw the pitch I wanted,” he said. “I just didn’t execute it perfectly.”

He’s talking about the first-pitch curveball he threw to left-handed hitting Corey Seager with two outs and two on in a scoreless game in the fifth inning. He hung it and Seager smoked it, 400 feet into the seats in right field. It ended up being the kill shot.

BOX SCORE: Rangers 5, Tigers 0

“Seager is the most aggressive hitter in the league,” Boyd said. “It’s the pitch I wanted to throw. Maybe I should’ve gone with slider instead of a curve. But I missed with it. Honestly, though, it was the walks that killed me. I walked four and three scored. Unfortunately, those were the difference-makers.”

The walks were curious because Boyd came out attacking a very dangerous Rangers. He breezed through the first three innings on 32 pitches, 22 of them strikes.

“He was cruising,” manager AJ Hinch said. “He came out as hot as he’s been against the top of their order, which is really good. He established his fastball. He threw some really good changeups and sliders. But then he had the walks and Seager had the big swing.

“Whether it’s feel or trying to be a little too perfect or trying to overthink it — I don’t know what the reason is.”

Gradually, as the at-bats got tougher, the strike zone got a little fuzzy on Boyd. He started falling behind hitters in the fourth. Then in the fifth, he walked former Tiger Robbie Grossman (after having him down in the count 0-2). After getting two outs, Boyd threw four straight balls to Marcus Semien.

Seager, who had seen first-pitch breaking balls in his first two at-bats, just about came out of his shoes when he saw a third first-pitch breaking ball pop out of Boyd’s hand.

“He was staying on the attack, I thought,” catcher Eric Haase said. “He was just missing a lot of close pitches. He was just battling. Going back, obviously you’d like to live without the walks. Kind of put us in a tough spot. You can say what you want about the homer, but it was a left-on-left breaking ball and he put a good swing on it. The walks hurt more than the homer did.”

The Rangers, now 34-19, have tied the best 53-game start in their history. They are 20-8 since April 28.

The Tigers, trying to get to .500 for the first time since Opening Day, fall back to 25-27.

A big part of Texas’ success has been the stellar work of right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who the Tigers had to contend with Monday. He came in having averaged eight innings in his last five starts and allowing just four runs total in 41.2 innings.

To their credit, just like they did against the White Sox rotation over the weekend, they made him work. Spencer Torkelson and Nick Maton led off the second inning with walks and a single by Akil Baddoo loaded the bases with no outs.

But they couldn’t get the run-scoring hit. Haase hit into a force out at the plate and Andy Ibanez grounded into a double-play.

“Not getting the big hit was tough,” Haase said. “We had him on the ropes. That’s really tough. Not scoring there really changes the dynamic of the game. I thought we kept pressure on him the whole time. We had good at-bats and made him work. Just didn’t get the big hit.”

In the third, singles by Zach McKinstry and Riley Greene put runners at the corners with two outs. Eovaldi got Torkelson to ground out to end the inning.

The Tigers on the season are 9 for 52 (.170) with the bases loaded and rank last in the American League with a .112 average (9 for 80) with runners in scoring position.

“When you get a guy like Eovaldi on the ropes, you want to push across something,” Hinch said. “It’s always hard to have a big inning without a big hit. We couldn’t find one.”

The upside of those empty rallies was that Eovaldi’s pitch count was elevated. He was at 95 pitches and out of the game after five innings.

Which is only useful if you do damage against the Rangers’ bullpen. The Tigers did not. They had just one hit off three relievers the rest of the way.

The Rangers knocked Boyd out of the game in the seventh and extended their lead against reliever Mason Englert — a pitcher they did not protect in last year’s Rule 5 draft.

Boyd left after walking Grossman for the second time and allowing a single to Leody Taveras. Englert ended up allowing those two runners to score — sacrifice fly by Marcus Semien and an RBI single by Seager.

“Honestly, being aggressive in the zone, that’s my game,” Boyd said. “I thought we were aggressive. Just for those four walks. I just missed. I probably tried to get a little too fine and that’s what led to the walks.”

This was the fifth time the Tigers have been shut out this season.

Twitter: @cmccosky

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