KANSAS CITY — Matthew Boyd retired just six of his first 15 batters Thursday afternoon. He yielded seven balls in play with exit velocities of 102 mph and up. He allowed the leadoff batter to reach base in five of his 6 1/3 innings.
He also completed just his second homerless outing since the end of July. And as he celebrated a 6-4 Detroit victory and his first pair of back-to-back wins since early May, he realized the benefits of keeping the ball in the park.
Two first-inning runners were retired on the bases. Two middle-inning baserunners were retired on double plays. Jorge Soler, who has 10 home runs off Tigers pitching in his 40-homer season, not only went homerless against Detroit for the first time in six games, he went hitless off Boyd with two strikeouts and a hit-by-pitch.
It was almost an opposite of Boyd’s typical outings, not just during his late-summer skid but for most of this season. When he has been on his game, he has usually yielded home runs but survived by limiting the baserunners he allows around them. He won his last start with four home runs allowed — all but one of them solo — but 11 strikeouts.
His last meeting with the Royals four weeks ago featured three homers among six hits and three walks over just 2 2/3 innings.
If Boyd was going to have an outing like this, this was the place to do it. Though the Tigers ace entered the day leading the Majors with 36 home runs allowed, with a real chance at becoming the first Tiger to allow 40 homers in a season since Jack Morris in 1986, Boyd had allowed just two home runs over 45 2/3 career innings at Kauffman Stadium, despite a 2-5 record and 7.49 ERA here.
By limiting the damage, Boyd set himself up to actually benefit from home runs. Brandon Dixon, Dawel Lugo and Jordy Mercer all homered in a four-batter span of the fourth inning off Royals starter Glenn Sparkman (3-11) to put Detroit in front for good. Willi Castro’s pinch-hit two-run single provided critical insurance runs that helped Joe Jimenez withstand a ninth-inning rally for his fifth save.