Pitchers look to avoid long ball in Cubs-Tigers finale

MLB

Matthew Boyd has made it much more difficult for batters to square up on his pitches this season.

The Detroit Tigers left-hander has pitched 41 2/3 innings and given up just one homer. He’ll look to keep the hitters off-balance when he starts the finale of a three-game home series against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.

Boyd (2-3, 1.94 ERA) was consistently victimized by the long ball over the last two seasons. He gave up an American League-high 39 homers in 2019 and tied for the major league high with 15 homers allowed during the 60-game 2020 campaign.

“We watch Matt Boyd just continue to evolve and trust his stuff at critical times and not do it the same way every time,” manager AJ Hinch said. “He mixes his pitches, he gets ahead, gets into leverage and he’s got a lot of weapons. It’s not that it’s opened his eyes, but it’s opened his repertoire by pitching ahead so often.”

Boyd’s record belies how well he’s pitched this season, and he has a0.94 WHIP.

In his last start, Boyd tossed six scoreless innings against Kansas City on Tuesday and exited with a seven-run lead, only to see the bullpen squander it before Robbie Grossman hit a walk-off single in the ninth.

“The ninth didn’t happen like we wanted it to, but then it did — we came out on top and walked it off,” Boyd said.

The only time Boyd has faced the Cubs came during a brief relief appearance early in his career. Kyle Hendricks, who will start for Chicago, has only pitched against Detroit twice in his career, going 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA.

Hendricks’ season has gone in the opposite direction of Boyd’s, especially regarding the long ball. He’s allowed 11 in 34 2/3 innings after giving up 10 in 81 1/3 innings last season and 19 in 177 innings in 2019.

Hendricks (2-4, 6.23 ERA) did not surrender a home run in his last start but he still gave up six runs (four earned) on nine hits in five innings to Pittsburgh on May 9.

However, Hendricks believed the Pirates got a majority of their hits on soft contact.

“It’s still on the right track,” Hendricks said. “I’m still getting better action on my pitches. I’m getting to the bottom of the zone better. Threw some good curveballs and good changeups (Sunday). At least I have a chance going out there. I feel like I can trust my stuff more so. So I would say progress, still positive progress in the right direction.”

He won’t be facing one of the best Tigers hitters, Jeimer Candelario, on Sunday. Hinch was planning to give him a day off and now the team is crossing its fingers he can play during their upcoming trip to Seattle. Candelario left Saturday’s 9-8, 10-inning victory after getting hit on the knee by a pitch.

“Candy took a cutter on the inside part of his knee,” Hinch said. “He’s got a little bit of a contusion. It was hurting him. He was trying to stay in the game and Doug (trainer Doug Teter) could feel the fact it was swelling up a little bit.”

Chicago activated center fielder Ian Happ (left rib contusion) prior to Saturday’s game. He went 0-for-5.

–Field Level Media

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