Detroit Tigers' Matthew Boyd passes on the chocolate cake, feasts on the changeup

Carlos Monarrez
Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd likes to throw the slider. He has five pitches, but throws a four-seam fastball 48% of the time and slider 32% of the time.

Then there’s the changeup at 9% of the time. But it’s an important pitch to him because it’s what he grew up relying on, because his dad wouldn’t let him throw a breaking ball until he got to high school.

In his start in Cleveland on Saturday night, Boyd resisted the temptation to feast on his slider and instead used the changeup effectively in 5⅓ innings of strong work in a 6-1 loss.

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“It’s like hey, we’ve got chocolate cake in the fridge with my slider,” said Boyd, who threw 23 changeups and 10 sliders, according to Statcast. “I’ve had chocolate cake before. I’ve got to stop eating it so much and know there’s other stuff in there that we can go to as well.

“The game dictated that we use the changeup. If it dicatcted another pitch then we probably would have gone to it, right?”

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matthew Boyd throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field, Aug. 22, 2020.

Boyd had used the changeup sparingly but effectively in his previous start against the Chicago White Sox. The Indians’ lineup isn’t especially effective against offspeed pitches, so the timing was right to deploy the changeup. He credited catcher Austin Romine for setting up the softer pitch by calling early fastballs.

“We had the slider there when we needed it and just didn’t have to use it as much because the changeup was the one,” Boyd said. “That’s how we’ve always kind of seen, with (pitching coach Rick Anderson) and then Romie and Grayson (Greiner), my game is I can pitch with the changeup, I can pitch with the curveball, I can pitch with the slider, I can pitch with the fastball.

“Whatever’s working for when we need it we can deal with it. It was a lot of fun to work with him. He did a great job.”

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Boyd was the first Tigers starter in 11 games to give them five innings — the first pitcher to give the team enough quality pitching to save the bullpen and give them a good chance to win.

“Yeah, we were really happy with that,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That was the best of the year. He got us into the second half of the game, although just a little bit into it. But that’s OK. He was in the sixth inning and he was still throwing the ball OK.”

Boyd (0-4) allowed two runs on five hits and one walk with six strikeouts. But his biggest mistake was giving up a leadoff walk to Jose Ramirez on five pitches in the sixth inning. He faced two more batters before giving way to John Schreiber. The Indians scored their first runs of the game and took a 4-1 lead in the sixth.

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“Everything that we’ve been talking about he did it out there tonight,” Gardenhire said. “He did his job, gave us an opportunity. We didn’t score enough runs. 

“Pitching with a one-run lead that’s kind of a dangerous thing when you get to the second half with that lineup. So Matty did his thing. He did great.”

Boyd didn’t walk away with tangible results; no win or quality start. But he wasn’t concerned with that, either. He was more interested in defining his goals and learning something from each pitch he threw.

“So you have to have the awareness to say, ‘OK, what’s my game? What do I expect from myself when I get out here?’ ” he said. “And then go about it one pitch at a time like that.

“And then you can take from it what you can and then once you take from it, you move forward, whether it’s in the moment one pitch at a time or afterward in reflection.”

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Tigers content