Matt Boyd and Miguel Cabrera were good. Joe Jimenez was not.
That Matt Boyd was on the mound was the only reason to feel good about a matchup with the red-hot Twins . After Boyd retired the side in the first, erasing leadoff man Jorge Polanco with his major league leading fourth pickoff of the year, the Tigers got on the board. Christin Stewart singled with one out, and Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera reached via hit-by-pitch and a single, respectively, Brandon Dixon plated Stewart with a sacrifice fly.
In the third, it was Boyd running into a bit of trouble. Byron Buxton singled with one out, and Boyd then balked him to second. Ron Gardenhire was less than pleased with the balk call and got himself tossed by venting his frustration. Boyd then threw a wild pitch that allowed Buxton to take third and then to Mitch Garver mashed a 95 mph heater at the top of the zone over the fence in left-centerfield.
The offense then perked up again in the fourth inning. Miguel Cabrera was quickly overpowered by a pair of Michael Pineda fastballs, but when Pineda then came back with a slider, Cabrera lashed it to left for a double. Brandon Dixon flew out, and Cabrera then surprised everyone by tagging and taking third just ahead of Buxton’s throw from center field. A Ronny Rodriguez double just inside the left field foul line scored Cabrera and the game was knotted at two apiece.
From that point on, Boyd settled in, showing off excellent velocity and nasty slider. He allowed two hits after a pair of strikeouts in the fifth, but rebounded to punch out Nelson Cruz for his sixth K of the day to escape the jam.
Niko Goodrum rewarded Boyd for his endeavors in the bottom half of the inning. After a JaCoby Jones strikeout, Goodrum drilled a hot grounder that Jonathan Schoop at second could only deflect. He then stole second base and advanced to third on a Stewart ground out. Castellanos smoked a line drive to left for a single to score Goodrum , and Cabrera followed with a bullet back up the middle for his third hit in as many trips to the plate. In the process, Cabrera passed Goose Goslin for 58th on the all-time hit list with 2737 knocks. Unfortunately, Dixon offered at a pitch on the outer edge in a 2-0 count and bounced out to snuff out the rally.
Boyd started the sixth by collecting his eighth strikeout, but a few long innings had his pitch count rising rapidly. C.J. Cron stepped to the dish and Boyd left a curveball up just a bit too much in a 1-1 count and smoked it just fair to left for a solo home run to tie the game. Marwin Gonzalez then followed with a sharp single and Boyd appeared to be faltering. A passed ball on John Hicks —yes they called it a wild pitch but they were wrong—allowed Gonzalez to take second base. Boyd induced a weak comebacker from Schoop and turned to catch Gonzalez in no man’ land between second and third. A sloppy rundown ensued, but they eventually put Gonzalez away and Boyd got a lazy fly ball from Willans Astudillo to end the threat.
The Tigers went down quickly in bottom of the sixth, and while his pitch count was close to 100, they needed another inning from Boyd with a bullpen day scheduled for Saturday’s contest. He had no trouble obliging. Boyd moved away from the heavy doses of sliders he’d offered all night and quickly blew away the Twins with fastballs, beating Mitch Garver with a 94 mph heater to end his night with eight strikeouts. Against one of the best offenses in the game, three runs on nine hits over seven innings counts as another fine outing from Matt Boyd.
That was the high water mark. Joe Jimenez came on in the eighth and once again did nothing but overthrow his fastball. Jimenez is rushing his drive to the plate and leaving his arm lagging a bit. The fastball doesn’t get the true riding backspin and continues to be flat. This is, of course, exacerbated by the fact that he’s completely lost his feel for the slider and won’t even throw it. Instead he tries harder with the heater, making things worse, and…well you get the idea.
Jimenez gave up a solo home run to our old pal Nelson Cruz , and several other hard hit balls. The Twins led 5-3 when it was over. Without a slider or changeup, there’s really no point to running him out there over and over. Jimenez may well need a return trip to Toledo to work on his mechanics and experiment with a curveball. Even at his best, the slider has only been intermittently good and his best arm slot and release are better suited to a hook to begin with. The raw ability is all still there, but he’s just a mess right now. Time to try something else.
After the Tigers went down quietly in the eighth, Zac Reininger predictably struggled in the top of the ninth. He faced four batters and got only one out, surrendering a run in the process. Daniel Stumpf did a solid job to bail him out with no further damage.
Blake Parker came on to close things out for the Twins, but he was quite wild. He sandwiched a strikeout of Niko Goodrum between walks to JaCoby Jones and Christin Stewart. After a visit to the mound Parker rebounded to get a force out of Castellanos and a lineout from Cabrera to wrap this one up.