Boyd takes mound for Tigers against hometown Mariners

Matthew Boyd grew up on Mercer Island, just across the bridge from Safeco Field. He idolized Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.

So Thursday night’s start will be more special than most for the Detroit Tigers left-hander, who will get to take the mound in his hometown of Seattle for the first time against the Mariners.

Boyd will start the series opener against Seattle left-hander Marco Gonzales.

It will be a rematch of the first game of last Saturday’s doubleheader in Detroit. Boyd pitched six-plus innings and Jose Iglesias hit a two-run homer as the Tigers won 4-3.

Boyd retired Seattle’s first eight batters in order and held the Mariners to one hit through the first four scoreless innings.

“He’s got good stuff and he knows how to use it,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said of Boyd after the game. “That’s a great hitting team.”

Boyd, who was the state’s co-player of the year while at Eastside Catholic High School, is 2-3 with a 3.21 ERA in seven starts this season. Five of those have been quality starts, including his last time out when he allowed three runs on three hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

“He commands all of his pitches and he can throw them at any time, so they can’t sit on one thing,” Gardenhire said earlier this season. “If he gets behind in the count, he can still flip a slow curve over, flip a slow change over. He did what he was supposed to do — screw up their timing.”

Boyd, 27, who went 6-11 with a 5.27 ERA last season, seems to have come into his own this year. That’s due in part to his work with new pitching coach Chris Bosio.

“(Boyd) changes speeds really well, moves his fastball around. He’s bought into a lot of stuff that Boz (Bosio) has talked to him about,” Detroit catcher John Hicks said. “He’s been throwing the ball great.”

How great? Boyd became the first Tigers left-hander to open the season with three straight starts of six-plus innings and one or fewer runs allowed since at least 1908, when records were first kept.

“I don’t want to look back,” Boyd said. “All I have is right now. Tomorrow, come out, prepare for the next one.”

Boyd is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in two career appearances against the Mariners, including the one start.

While Boyd has some history with Seattle, Gonzales has some with the Tigers’ organization. His father, Frank, was drafted by Detroit and spent parts of four seasons with Triple-A Toledo.

Gonzales (3-3, 5.31 ERA) made his first career appearance against the Tigers last weekend, allowing four runs on a career-high 10 hits in six innings, with two walks and three strikeouts.

“That’s kind of been the theme behind a couple of my starts, being able to pitch through situations like that,” Gonzales said. “I’m a contact pitcher and guys are going to be on, I’m just trying to get a ton of ground balls and some double plays in there and field my position and give us a chance to stay in the ballgame.”