Despite loss to Sox, Tigers find mojo at plate

Detroit Tigers

If the Tigers needed a reminder of the value of putting the ball in play, this series at Fenway Park was it. Their 12-9 loss to the Red Sox in Thursday’s rubber match ended up becoming an example of Murphy’s Law.

Four of their eight runs either scored or reached base on infield hits. Three of those infield hits came after an 0-2 count, two from Jonathan Schoop. Two other ground balls from JaCoby Jones resulted in errors, one of which set up another run. Jeimer Candelario posted his second consecutive three-hit game, hours after his go-ahead three-run homer, but had only one ball with an exit velocity over 90 mph, according to Statcast.

It was a small-ball formula that had the Tigers poised for a series win until the Red Sox turned the table. Seven of the 12 runs Detroit allowed were unearned, including all four of Boston’s runs in the go-ahead eighth, thanks to four errors — two each from normally sure-handed Candelario at third and Niko Goodrum at short.

After struggling for offense and pitching over the past several weeks, the Tigers finally had a defensive letdown at a costly time. As Detroit returns home off a 2-7 road trip, it has to carry the offense forward while cleaning up everything else. For a team that came to Boston in desperate need of runs, this offense can work sometimes.

This is the kind of offense the Royals used mercilessly against the Tigers during the last homestand at Comerica Park. Once Goodrum raced to an unoccupied first base on a fifth-inning ground ball to the right side as Candelario scored, Detroit had its third consecutive game with at least six runs, something it hasn’t done since the Tigers were swept the Astros in Houston from April 12-14. Once Wilson Ramos sent a ground-ball single through the left side to score Robbie Grossman in the eighth, Detroit not only had a season-high nine runs, it had its fifth lead change of the day.

Goodrum’s ensuing bloop single into short left was the Tigers’ 13th hit of the day, also a season high. Just two of their 14 hits went for extra bases, both doubles.

The Tigers stole as many bases in three games against the Red Sox (seven) as they did in the entire month of April.

“This is probably the most baserunners we’ve had over the last couple weeks,” manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday morning. “We probably could’ve started this a few weeks ago had we had the opportunities. … We can’t just sit around and expect us to go base to base and optimize our offense.”

The Tigers also can’t swing hard and miss as often as they had been. They came to town batting just 18-for-140 with 65 strikeouts over their previous five games, to go with a Major League-low .195 batting average.

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