Boyd baffles former team with offspeed pitches

Boyd baffles former team with offspeed pitches

TORONTO -- Matt Boyd was a teammate of Aaron Sanchez on their way up through the Blue Jays' farm system. The way the numbers looked for both of them heading into Saturday, there was some question whether they were in the same league.

With five innings of one-run ball against a Blue Jays lineup that feasts on home runs, Boyd -- starting in place of injured Daniel Norris -- provided an answer. He didn't earn the win in Saturday's 3-2 Tigers victory at Rogers Centre, but he earned respect for his ability to adjust.

"Those guys, they can swing," Victor Martinez said. "They're really dangerous, and he was able to keep them quiet."

The last time Boyd pitched at Rogers Centre, he gave up three home runs in six innings against a Blue Jays offense that went up to the plate hacking. He made two starts here as a Blue Jay before last summer's trade, and gave up five homers over 6 2/3 innings.

His move to Detroit at last year's Trade Deadline gave him a more pitcher-friendly home park, but with 17 homers over 57 1/3 innings by season's end, the issue was clear. Boyd needed to get the ball down on hitters to survive, whether with a slider he was tinkering with or a curveball.

A low-70s curveball was Boyd's great equalizer on Saturday -- not only against a formidable Blue Jays lineup that was rolling all week, but against a stellar pitcher in Sanchez. And a game that looked like a mismatch going in became a game the Tigers would pull out, ending Toronto's seven-game winning streak.

"He didn't have his best slider," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said, "but he mixed his curveball and changeup very well. He went in and out with his fastball against a predominantly right-handed lineup, and he did an excellent job. He did exactly what we needed him to do."

Boyd stranded runners at the corners in the first inning with a 71-mph curveball he dropped on the corner against Russell Martin, taking away a sacrifice-fly opportunity. He did the same with a 75-mph breaking ball against Junior Lake, after Kevin Pillar's leadoff single in the second. He retired nine in a row from there, four of them on strikeouts.

"Any time any of the offspeed [pitches] are working, it just gives you more options," Boyd said.

His lone run allowed wasn't a long ball from a Jays thumper, but an RBI triple by speedster Ezequiel Carrera. Again, he faced runners at the corners and escaped, this time with an inning-ending popout by Edwin Encarnacion.

"If you can pitch up and down with the fastball and curveball, [you can] change eye levels," Ausmus said. "I think as he gains experience, and I think as he gains consistency in his offspeed pitches and his command comes around, I think he'll be a much more consistent pitcher."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. 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.