After taking a slim early lead, things looked promising, but Eduardo Rodriguez and the Tigers’ defense melted down in the fourth, allowing a six-run frame that a valiant comeback effort couldn’t overcome. The Red Sox took the three-game set with a 9-7 victory on a rainy day at Comerica Park.
Well, this one started off all right. Jonathan Schoop got a hanger in the bottom of the first inning and smoked it into the seats in left for an early one run lead. Nathan Eovaldi was otherwise doing his thing, though the Tigers hit several balls on the screws with nothing to show for it beyond Schoop’s drive.
As for Eduardo Rodriguez, he looked more like himself early on. The command that was oddly lacking on Opening Day was still a problem, but he did get a quick first inning, and was racking up strikeouts through three. However, he’d already walked two batters by that point as well, and the precision he’s usually known for just wasn’t in evidence again.
The shaky command finally bit Rodriguez in the fourth. He violated the cardinal rule, walking J.D. Martinez for the second time in the game to lead off the inning, and things completely unraveled from there.
Bobby Dalbec singled, and Christian Arroyo bunted the runners up 90 feet. Alex Verdugo lifted one out to Austin Meadows in the left, and Martinez was able to tag and score the go ahead run. Still there were now two outs and things were under control.
Unfortunately, Jeimer Candelario then threw wide of first on a routine ground ball off the bat of catcher Christian Vasquez, pulling Spencer Torkelson off the bag. Giving away outs so often ends up killing a team, and it certainly did today. Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with a screaming drive the opposite way just over Meadows, and he didn’t play it well off the wall. Dalbec scored, and even Vasquez was able to rumble all the way around to score from first on the play.
This was all frustrating enough, but Rodriguez didn’t help matters either. He wasn’t grooving pitches down the middle, but still he surrendered back-to-back doubles to Enrique Hernandez and Rafael Devers—that’s three in a row if you’re counting at home—and A.J. Hinch had seen enough of that mess. Rony Garcia came on and gave up an RBI single to Trevor Story to make it 7-1 Red Sox before the inning mercifully came to an end.
Garcia came back for the fifth and cooled the Red Sox attack, while Akil Baddoo ripped a solo shot into the right field seats to make it 7-2. Garcia pitched around a one-out walk in the sixth to keep the Sox off the board, and Eovaldi’s day came to an end. However, things didn’t look any better for the Tigers as Barnes dispatched them 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the sixth inning.
Drew Hutchison came on in the seventh, and got into trouble immediately. His first two pitches went for a Martinez single and a Dalbec double. Hutch got Arroyo to ground out, and they issued a free pass to lefty Alex Verdugo to load the bases, hunting a double play ball. They didn’t get it. Vasquez lifted a sac fly to left and Martinez scored to make it 8-2 Sox. Bradley Jr. then doubled to score Dalbec before Hutchison got out of the inning.
There was a little fun to be had, however. In the bottom of the seventh, after Harold Castro cracked a line drive single to center field, Spencer Torkelson stepped to the dish. The fuss over his slow FIVE GAME START to his major league career was irritating, and clearly Tork had had enough of it. He turned on a high fastball from Austin Davis and cranked it out to left for the first of many, many major league bombs to come.
That was good to see. Better was the fact that the absolute paddling they were taking from the Red Sox finally seemed to get under the Tigers’ skin.
Hutchison tossed a scoreless eighth, and the Tigers got busy on the comeback trail again. Jeimer Candelario led off with a double to right field, and Eric Haase went oppo to right for a single that scored Candelario and made it 9-5 Red Sox. Harold Castro then drew a walk, and Torkelson, feeling it now, drove a single to left to load the bases with no outs.
Alex Cora went back to the bullpen at this point, calling on Jake Diekman to shut things down. Hinch countered by inserting Miguel Cabrera to pinch-hit for Tucker Barnhart. Diekman did his thing, punching out Cabrera, and then Akil Baddoo, who bizarrely bunted at the first pitch. However, Victor Reyes wasn’t waiting around. He turned around a first pitch fastball and pulled it into left for a single to make it 9-6. Austin Meadows then put together another really good AB, working his way into a 3-2 count. Diekman lost the handle on a breaking ball and hit Meadows on the forearm, forcing in another run to make it 9-7. Unfortunately, Jonathan Schoop popped out to end the threat.
Moral victories aren’t all that sweet, but at least the paddling they were taking finally woke up the Tigers’ bats. Of course, getting Eovaldi out of there was the real factor.
With the Tigers down two, and the Red Sox into the left-handed part of their lineup, A.J. Hinch decided to give his team their best chance. He brought in closer Gregory Soto to shut the door. Alex Verdugo greeted him by watching a pair of balls sail by and then ripped a double to right field to lead off the inning. Christian Vasquez flew out to Reyes in right, with Verdugo advancing to third with one out. Soto dusted Bradley Jr. with a couple of nasty sliders for the second out, and that brought up the ever dangerous Enrique Hernandez. Soto had no trouble, getting ahead in the count before inducing a ground out to Candelario.
Cora brought on Hansel Robles to close the door, but forcing the Red Sox to use their two best relievers to close the door doesn’t help the Tigers any. Jeimer Candelario battled into a 3-2 count and then smoked a liner to left that Verdugo made a nice play to haul in. There were quite a few of those today, as the offense wasn’t really the problem. Eric Haase flew out to center, and that left it up to Harold Castro. Castro fouled off several good fastballs and changeups, but finally swung over a slider to end it.
The Tigers now head to Kansas City for four with the Royals holding a 2-4 record.