It looked like Matt Boyd’s Triple-A debut would have to wait.
A steady rain delayed the Buffalo Bisons’ series finale Sunday against the Charlotte Knights at Coca-Cola Field for exactly three hours, and made it look for much of that time like the game wasn’t going to get played.
But eventually the skies lightened and the grounds crew went to work, getting the field ready for Boyd to take the bump. The 24-year-old from Mercer Island, Wash., didn’t disappoint, throwing seven strong innings in a 2-1 loss that ended the Bisons’ winning streak at three and allowed the Knights to salvage one game in the series.
“If he had any butterflies, it was during the rain delay,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said. “He wore a hole in the carpet up here, but I think once the game got started, he was fine.”
Boyd, a sixth-round draft pick of Toronto in 2013 who’s ranked 19th among the Blue Jays’ prospects by mlb.com, struck out eight and didn’t issue any walks. He gave up two runs, only one of which was earned.
“I was happy to get deep in the game and keep my team in it,” he said.
Allenson didn’t see Boyd pitch during spring training, so he wasn’t sure what the Herd would be getting. But the statistics from his time with Double-A New Hampshire of the Eastern League suggested Boyd was ready for the promotion.
So far this season with the Fisher Cats, the southpaw leads the Eastern League in earned-run average (1.10), strikeouts (70), batting average against (.155) and WHIP (0.77). He made 12 starts with a 6-1 record, allowing just 39 hits in 73 2/3 innings pitched.
“He impressed us all the way he pitched,” Allenson said. “It’s not like he’s going to go out there and throw 96 and blow guys away, but he knows how to pitch. He knows how to move the fastball around, has a pretty good change-up, nice breaking ball. Didn’t get flustered. He did a really good job, deserved to win, and didn’t.”
Boyd’s nerves showed in the first inning. After allowing a leadoff single, he tried to pick off the Knights’ Micah Johnson, but the throw sailed into right field. Johnson eventually came around to score.
“I kind of shot myself in the foot there,” he said. “You never know what run is going to win or lose a ballgame. … You always tell yourself, ‘don’t let the game speed up on you. It’s the same game.’ It sped up on me a little bit.”
From that point, however, Boyd settled in. His only other miscue was a fourth-inning home run allowed to the Knights’ Trayce Thompson.
“I’ll take two runs and seven innings every time out, and he’ll be really successful no matter what level he’s at,” Allenson said.
Boyd said his comfort level with Bisons catcher Sean Ochinko grew as the game went on.
“We were just starting to roll,” he said. “Definitely as the game went on, I felt like I was getting better.”
The Bisons had a prime opportunity to steal a come-from-behind win in the ninth inning after the first two hitters, Luke Scott and Brad Glenn, reached base. A sacrifice bunt by Daric Barton got them into scoring position with one out, but the Bisons couldn’t cash in. Pinch hitter Alex Hassan and Ochinko flied out to end the game.
“We just didn’t get it done there,” Allenson said.