Boston — Figures it would take a historical performance, and maybe a couple of bottles of Maalox, for the Tigers to finally snap their six-game losing streak.
“I’ve managed a lot of games in this ballpark and it never feels like it’s over,” manager AJ Hinch said. “It never feels like you have enough to get 27 outs or more like tonight.”
Here’s all it took for the Tigers to finally walk out of Fenway Park, on misty wet and chilly Wednesday night, with a 6-5, 10-inning victory over the Red Sox:
- A gritty six-inning performance by rookie Casey Mize.
- Two clutch, two-out knocks by JaCoby Jones that accounted for three runs.
- A long, three-run home run into the right field seats in the 10th inning by Jeimer Candelario.
- A history-making, first-career save by Michael Fulmer. He became the first pitcher in club history to start one day and earn a save the next.
Other than that, it was easy-peasy.
“We just give the glory to God for the opportunity to get this W,” Candelario said. “We needed it so bad.”
Let’s start at the end.
The Tigers were up 3-1 with two outs and a man on in the seventh inning when J.D. Martinez hit an elevated 2-2 sinker from reliever Bryan Garcia and drove it into the Red Sox bullpen.
Lefty Daniel Norris had gotten the first two outs of the inning, around a single by Kiké Hernández. But Hinch wasn’t going to let Norris face Martinez.
“Garcia got to two strikes in a really good way, but put that one in his love zone,” Hinch said. “But I will tell you, hitting a pitch up and away in the mist, in the cold, to the biggest part of Fenway — it’s J.D. Martinez and only a few other of the top players in our game that can do that.”
The Red Sox nearly finished the Tigers off in the bottom of the ninth.
With runners on second and third and two outs, lefty Gregory Soto got Xander Bogaerts to line out to left field. Robbie Grossman made a good running catch, ducking under the lights in the mist and sliding on the wet outfield.
Grossman started on second base in the 10th and Jonathan Schoop, winning a 10-pitch at-bat, dunked a single into short right field.
Candelario, who had two hits earlier, ambushed a first-pitch sinker from right-hander Garrett Whitlock and sent it deep into the right field seats.
“He’s a sinker ball pitcher,” Candelario said. “But I wasn’t even thinking about a home run. I didn’t want to put pressure on myself. I just wanted to hit the ball hard and move the runners. But see what happens when you don’t try to do too much? Good things happen.”
The bottom of the 10th was hairy for the Tigers. Soto gave up an RBI single to Marwin Gonzalez and then, slipping and sliding, couldn’t come up with a tapper back to the mound from Kevin Plawecki.
With two on and one out, Hinch called on Fulmer, who started and threw 33 pitches on Tuesday.
“He loves the adrenalin,” Hinch said. “I think his stuff plays up a little bit and he can execute multiple pitches. He’s a good Major League pitcher. I know we’re bouncing him back and forth (between starting and relieving) out of need. But I like the ability to use him in leverage.
“But maybe we don’t have to make it this difficult on him. But I trust him a lot.”
Trust validated. First, some more adversity. Fulmer got a ground ball from Hunter Renfroe that might’ve been a double-play but second baseman Willi Castro couldn’t field it. That made it 6-5.
Fulmer didn’t relent. He finished the game, getting Bobby Dalbec on a soft liner to third and then struck out Hernandez, freezing him with a 97 mph sinker.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity and the trust factor in that situation,” Fulmer said. “And I’m glad I could come through for the team and get us back in the win column.”
It was Fulmer’s first career save and the first time he’s pitched on back-to-back days since high school.
“I told AJ and (pitcher coach Chris) Fetter that I felt good, that my body felt better than yesterday,” Fulmer said. “I told the team, I messed up yesterday. That was my fault. I didn’t do my job, but Casey stepped up today and had my back.
“I hope we can get this rolling a little bit. The last couple of games have been encouraging.”
Mize went six gritty innings, allowing just three singles and crafted his second straight quality start. He didn’t allow the first one until the fifth (a one-out infield single by Christian Vazquez). The only run that crossed on his watch came without a hit in the second inning.
“I’ve been proud of these guys for how they’ve handled everything,” Hinch said. “We don’t like where we’re at or how we got there. But we’ve tried to isolate that and come out and play with energy every day.
“Our guys are fighting. It’s not pretty when you look at it from a big-picture view. But tonight we got a lot of it and clearly our guys care, to hang in there in a tough environment.”