"[Boyd] did throw strikes," manager Brad Ausmus said, "but it's kind of a catch-22 against these guys because they're swingers and they hit strikes. The positive is he threw strikes. I guess the downside was when he got to two strikes, he didn't have a putaway pitch to kind of finish them off."
Boyd had two-strike counts on seven of the first nine batters he faced. He did not strike out any of them. He retired four, but gave up three consecutive two-strike hits leading off the second inning, setting up three runs.
Boyd had one swing-and-miss, technically a foul tip, among the first 13 batters he faced before he got Salvador Perez to chase a changeup out of the strike zone for a strikeout -- his only one of the outing -- to end the third inning.
It's an issue that has come up before, which is why Boyd spent much of Spring Training working on a slider to give hitters a different look and give himself a potential swing-and-miss pitch. When he didn't have it on Saturday, he struggled.
"His slider the last couple outings hasn't been what it was when he first got here," Ausmus said.
Without it, Boyd said, "It's tough. I'm working fastball, curve and change. Your margin for error gets a little tighter, especially when you're facing as many right-handers as they have. The margin for error just shrinks up a little bit. You just have to be a little finer. If you have four pitches and stuff that's moving, both sides of the plate, it opens it up for you a little bit.
"They put bats on the balls. You give yourself a chance when that happens. That's what happened tonight."
Another two-strike hit, this time from Kendrys Morales, got the Royals going again in the fourth, setting up Boyd's exit. He threw 49 of 64 pitches for strikes, but induced just three swings and misses.
The Royals have become a bad matchup in Boyd's brief Tigers tenure. Last season here on Sept. 3, 2015, he gave up seven hits and two walks in facing 11 batters. He went deeper on Saturday, but still suffered his worst outing of the season.
Boyd has had success against Kansas City too, but the total numbers -- 34 hits over 23 innings, with four walks and 15 strikeouts -- reflect the learning curve Boyd must make.
"I know what I need to do," Boyd said. "I don't need to reinvent the wheel. If you look at tonight, I could locate better, but more than anything, I need to just sharpen my slider. Some days it's not going to be there, but I know it can be better."