Detroit — In a way, this was Matthew Boyd’s season in a capsule.
He was perfect through four innings Sunday. Brushing corners with his change-up and curveball, moving his fastball up and in, up and away to keep the hitters honest. Twelve up, 12 down, on an economical 56 pitches.
An inning later he walked off the Comerica Park mound, maybe for the last time this season, having allowed five runs and five hits, the last a two-run home run by Jose Ramirez.
From dominant to defeated in nine batters.
“It is frustrating,” Boyd said after the Indians held on for a 7-4 win, taking three of four from the Tigers this weekend. “It’s a 0-0 game, everything is flowing and it was a lot of fun out there. It’s not like it got away from me by any means.
“But a game like this, the level of focus and intensity is on every pitch and there is no margin for error. And that’s how it shook out.”
Boyd, who had good success with his off-speed pitches in his previous start against the Indians, threw 13 change-ups and 10 curveballs in the first four innings. He had the Indians hitters reaching and hitting balls off their front foot. He worked ahead on all but one hitter.
“You go out and you establish the fastball and then they’re going to tell us what to do after that,” Boyd said. “A lot of those guys were going out early after the fastball. Second time through the order, same thing. They were trying to get out early, so we kept throwing the change-up and curve.”
The script flipped in the fifth. Boyd fell behind Carlos Santana 3-0, softly hit single up the middle and under second baseman Niko Goodrum’s backhand attempt. Boyd fell behind Franmil Reyes 3-0, walk. He fell behind Jordan Luplow 1-0 and gave up an RBI single. Then with two outs, he gave up a two-run single on an 0-2 pitch to Delino DeShields.
“I threw all the pitches I wanted to throw, but in hindsight, there are two I want back,” Boyd said, “the backdoor slider to DeShields and the curveball to Luplow. If I put it more down, thrown it with more conviction — they were pitches I wanted to throw but I didn’t throw them the way I wanted to.”
In the sixth, center fielder Victor Reyes misplayed a line drive by Cesar Hernandez into a double. Against Ramirez, Boyd fell behind 3-1 and threw a change-up. Ramirez was sitting on it. He hit it on a line into the Tigers’ bullpen in left.
“He’s just a good hitter,” said Boyd, who has been tagged for 25 runs (24 earned) in 29.1 innings at Comerica Park, allowing seven home runs. “He’s the reason they are in the position they are in.”
It went from bad to ugly in the seventh. Lefty Nick Ramirez, who finished the sixth and struck out two, appeared to induce an inning-ending double-play from Hernandez. But Goodrum appeared to slow-play the pivot at second and made an errant throw to first.
Jose Ramirez followed with his second two-run home run in two innings.
“I talked to Niko about that,” said interim manager Lloyd McClendon. “It certainly looked like it was a nonchalant play but his explanation was pretty good. He said he opened up the front side too quick, tried to be a little too quick and it caused the ball to sink and short-hop the first baseman.”
Ramirez, according to Sportradar, is the first player to collect nine hits, four home runs and 10 RBIs in a single series against the Tigers since Babe Ruth did it in 1933.
The Tigers hitters, meanwhile, were flummoxed by Indians starter Carlos Carrasco.
A lead-off single by Austin Romine in the third inning was the only hit they managed in seven innings. Carrasco struck out 11 and walked three.
The Tigers finally got on the board in the eighth inning against reliever Cam Hill. A two-out broken-bat single by Willi Castro scored Isaac Paredes. Then Miguel Cabrera, who had been in an 0-for-13 skid, drove a 91-mph fastball 411 feet into the seats in right-center — his seventh of the season.
It was career home run No. 484 for Cabrera.
Goodrum doubled in a run in the ninth
The Tigers, who embark on their final road trip of the season (Minnesota, Kansas City), fall to 22-30, with a wild-card spot looking more remote by the day. But don’t expect McClendon to wave the white flag.
“The lineup we put together is decided with only one thing in mind,” he said. “And that’s to try to win a ballgame. We’re still in this race. Like Yogi said, ‘It ain’t over until it’s over.’ We will put our lineup together to win a ballgame every day.”
There is still a chance they will play the make-up doubleheader against the Cardinals at Comerica Park on Sept. 28, depending on if those games would impact the National League playoff landscape.