ARLINGTON -- When players on the opposing team offer praise for a starting pitcher, it usually comes from the hitters he faces. Rarely does it come from the opposing starter, who has his own pitching to worry about. Yet some of the best words about Matt Boyd's outing came from Cole Hamels, the better-known starter on the mound at Globe Life Park on Saturday night.
Hamels compared Boyd's approach, attacking the strike zone, to that of his old Phillies teammate, Cliff Lee. But he directed his highest praise at Boyd's putaway pitch of the evening.
"He has a great slider," Hamels said. "That slider is a devastating pitch, and he definitely showed that with how he was throwing it."
Considering where Boyd stood with that pitch a year ago, it's massive praise. It also shows why the slider can play a big role in keeping Boyd around.
Boyd induced six swings and misses from Rangers hitters Saturday, three of them for strikeouts. All of them came against the slider, a pitch he threw 16 times out of 99 pitches. Texas put Boyd's slider in play as many times as they whiffed on it.
Those results, while only in one game, are potentially a big step. Boyd emphasized the slider in Spring Training as a pitch he needed to work on to get down in the strike zone, change eye levels and better his deceptiveness. He had mixed results with it early this season, including a .292 batting average and .400 slugging percentage off it according to STATS, LLC.
Boyd didn't throw the slider as much when he got on a roll last month; it accounted for just 10 percent of his July pitches according to Brooks Baseball. He threw his curveball more often. He reversed the trends on Saturday, perhaps responding well to a lower arm angle he tried earlier this week and took into the game.
"It makes all [the difference] in the world," he said, "just freeing my body up and allowing myself to repeat all four pitches."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com 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.