Rondon starting to own Tigers' 8th-inning role

Rondon starting to own Tigers' 8th-inning role

DETROIT -- In one of the more unlikely matchups, Tigers lefty Matt Boyd pitched solidly enough over seven innings in Wednesday night's 2-1 win over the Royals to let manager Brad Ausmus use his bullpen the way he wanted, rather than the way he had to.

The results he saw from Bruce Rondon might make him want to turn to his hard-throwing young right-hander a little more often.

"He seemed to have a little attitude on the mound," Ausmus said, "like he expected to get the hitters out. And that's what I like to see."

It's not something that has been a common trait for Rondon this season. The swagger with which he attacked hitters as a rookie in 2013, challenging hitters with fastballs up to 103 mph, had seemingly been lost following Tommy John surgery, leaving him with more hope than belief.

Yet quietly, Rondon has put up three outings in a row in which he has done his job, keeping a one-run game close in the eighth inning last Friday at Baltimore before getting a key eighth-inning double play on Sunday to help beat the O's.

On Wednesday, with a leadoff single from Alcides Escobar bringing up the middle of the Royals' order, Rondon had that confidence on hand. Two strikeouts and a flyout later, he deserved more of it.

Wilson secures the win

"I wouldn't say I've seen it consistently, but I've seen it the last couple outings," Ausmus said. "It's tough to teach a pitcher to expect to get the hitters out. Sometimes they have to learn it. But it looked to me in his last couple outings that he expected to get the hitters out. "

The way Rondon's slider was working, he had some reason for that. Using his high-90s fastball to set up the secondary stuff, Rondon worked ahead on Ben Zobrist to set up back-to-back sliders, the second for a swing and miss.

After Lorenzo Cain's flyout, Rondon put himself in a bad spot against Eric Hosmer with a 2-1 count. With Hosmer swinging, Rondon delivered a 98-mph fastball that Hosmer fouled off, setting up another slider to end the threat.

The scoreless eighth inning set up Blaine Hardy and Alex Wilson to finish off the win, based largely on matchups. Ausmus indicated he'll most likely stick with that, but Rondon's outing gave the skipper some encouragement that he could soon start handling the eighth inning more regularly.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.