It was a change of pace, the way the Detroit Tigers offense awakened late and the bullpen didn’t cough up a lead. And once they got that lead, manager Brad Ausmus picked the right relief pitcher.
The Tigers pieced together enough offense to win, left-hander Matthew Boyd pitched his best game of the season against the best team in the American League and the Tigers beat the Houston Astros, 5-3, tonight evening at Comerica Park.
“We stuck to it all the way to the end,” Boyd said. “We played all the way and we were resilient tonight. We kept fighting and I thought it was a good team win.”
After getting stymied by righty Colin McHugh for one run on four hits through six innings, a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh inning propelled them to victory. The inning began with rookie reliever Francis Martes hitting Nick Castellanos with a pitch on the hand. Victor Martinez’s hard-hit, seeing eye single then evaded an infield shift to right-centerfield.
Castellanos scored on a wild pitch before Martes struck out the next two batters swinging. Then, Jose Iglesias delivered his second RBI double to tie the game, a tie which Ian Kinsler promptly broke with a bloop RBI single to centerfield.
“We had some clutch hits,” Ausmus said. “He’s swinging the bat well. He’s been swinging a little bit more powerful bat in the last week and a half or so.”
But Boyd, who welcomed a baby girl into his family on Thursday, put the Tigers in a position for the late win with solid pitching.
His night started bad: He allowed a two-run home run to Evan Gattis in the first inning but cruised from there. Outside of a stray run in the fourth inning – highly-coveted trade target Derek Fisher hit an RBI triple to left-centerfield – Boyd was excellent.
“It just goes back to living in the moment and focusing on the current task at hand,” he said about the whirlwind 48 hours its been since the birth. “When you cross that threshold in the locker room, it’s a business. It’s executing pitches and just living in the moment.”
Boyd’s final line: 7 1/3 innings, eight hits, three runs, no walks and five strikeouts. He was relieved by righty Shane Greene after recording the first out of the seventh inning. Greene retired both batters he faced and Justin Wilson picked up his 13th save of the season.
It was an all-around effort, including a great defensive play by Kinsler for the first out of the eighth inning, on a tailing foul fly that almost flew into the seats; and a stolen base by Justin Upton that turned into an insurance run when Martinez knocked him home with a two-out single in the eighth inning.
With the win, the Tigers improve to 46-56 on the season. They stand 8 1/2 games back of the second American League wild card spot.
“We played well tonight,” Ausmus said. “We haven’t played well recently or we haven’t won recently but we played well tonight and we have a chance to win the series. So we’ll come in here tomorrow afternoon and hopefully we’ll take two of three.”