For so long, the Tigers have not been feasting. In many games over the past month and a half, they have starved, a mix of strikeouts and missed opportunities that have plagued one of the more offensively challenged teams in baseball.
But on this hot Midwest day against one of the hotter pitchers in the American League, the Tigers ate. Soon, after addressing the media following the team’s first series win since mid-June, Gardenhire would devour those meatballs. He would kill them, he said. They would taste — like the win — good.
“That’s what we’re after,” Gardenhire said. “And we got ‘er done.”
The Tigers played a complete game on Wednesday afternoon, beating the Royals 8-4 at Kauffman Stadium with contributions from up and down the lineup, especially in the middle. Victor Martinez singled three times, driving in two runs. John Hicks reached base four times, scoring two runs.
But two of the most notable contributions came from shortstop Jose Iglesias and starting pitcher Matt Boyd, two players who could find themselves in different uniforms at this time next week.
Iglesias, who has been under the watchful eye of the Phillies for the past week, hit a three-run home run off Danny Duffy in the top of the fourth inning to pad Boyd’s lead. Boyd, who scuffled for the better part of a month to end the season's first half, posted his second consecutive strong outing to perhaps throw his name into the hat of starting pitchers who could help contending teams.
“It’s good to see the guys swinging the bats,” Iglesias said, matter-of-factly.
In the win, the Tigers scored their most runs in the past 10 games. And for Iglesias, it served as a full-circle moment of sorts this season, one which turned around after the Tigers’ last trip to Kansas City in early May.
Back then, the Tigers only had a prayer to trade Iglesias. A chat with Gardenhire after that series opened his eyes to the player he can be. Since then, he’s performed as a solid two-way option, is still one of the better defenders at shortstop, and could find himself in a pennant race because of it.
Boyd, meanwhile, controlled the Royals. He allowed two runs on seven hits in six shutout innings and once again avoided the big damage that plagued him late in the first half. In those starts, it was one bad inning or one bad pitch.
In this start, leaning heavily on his fastball, which he threw the majority of the time, the Royals couldn’t string together any offense, save a pair of RBI doubles.
“It’s just focusing on the process,” Boyd said. “It’s not getting too caught up in the results. Knowing what brings you success, knowing what happened today, kind of looking at it with a lab coat on — looking at it very objectively — it’s just sticking to what your strengths are.”
Boyd was linked last month to the Mariners; trade rumors since have been mostly quiet, likely because his numbers have regressed after a hot start. But during his struggles, he has seemed to unlock more effectiveness with his fastball. He has reverted back to getting ahead of hitters and keeping them off-balance with his breaking pitches.
In a trade market that lacks attractive starting options and with team contract control remaining on Boyd, it would not be a surprise to see his name pop up over the next week.
Overall, it was a good series not only for the Tigers, but their trade candidates, save Francisco Liriano’s short outing on Monday night. Shane Greene picked up his 20th save in the opener and, despite allowing three hits in mop-up duty in the finale — Gardenhire said he wanted to get Greene some work — has shown himself to be healthy.
The noise surrounding these players will only pick up as the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31 nears. None of them are likely at the top of teams’ wish lists. But once the better players get picked off the market, theoretically, interest in some Tigers as backup plans should pick up.
But all of that is out of Gardenhire’s hands. For a manager who just wants to win as many games as possible, keeping a young team’s confidence above water, the series win is all that mattered.
“We’ve played a lot of really good series,” he said. “We just haven’t been able to win a series (lately). To come and win a series is really huge. It’s important to win here and get yourself set up with some confidence.”
And for once, it felt good to feast.
“That meatball’s got no chance,” he said.