Javier Báez collects three hits, including home run, but Detroit Tigers lose 5-4 to Red Sox

Detroit Free Press

Javier Báez unloaded on a full-count curveball from Boston Red Sox left-hander Rich Hill in the third inning, sending the ball over the wall in right-center field for his fifth home run this season.

It also marked Báez’s second homer in four games.

Báez recorded a first-inning triple, too, and scored two of the Detroit Tigers‘ four runs in Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Tigers (26-42) have dropped back-to-back games in the three-game series.

“We can win these games,” manager A.J. Hinch told reporters in Boston. “We obviously can win these games. I’m encouraged by how we’re playing. We just have to finish them.”

For the second night in a row, the Tigers posted more hits than the Red Sox, 11-8. Rookie Riley Greene finished 2-for-4 with one strikeout, a 20-year veteran Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-3 with one RBI and a hit-by-pitch.

“I’m encouraged by how we’re swinging the bat and continuing to battle back,” Hinch said. “Guys are starting to have more quality at-bats consistently, which is good. Obviously, we got to scratch a few more across against this team.”

But the Red Sox were too much for Tigers right-hander Beau Brieske, who allowed four runs on six hits across five innings and tossed 93 pitches in the 11th career start. The 24-year-old didn’t concede a walk and struck out four batters.

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Still, Brieske did his part to help save the bullpen by executing a perfect fifth inning as right-handed reliever Jason Foley warmed up in the bullpen. He retired Jarren Duran and Rafael Devers, then struck out J.D. Martinez on a foul tip.

“They’re going to make you work, which is part of their calling card,” Hinch said. “Beau hung in there and continued to do it. … I love the way he competes. He’s always composed. He knows what he’s doing. Another big growth night for him.”

Foley pitched the sixth inning.

The Tigers trailed by one run in the seventh inning, until left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin gave up a home run over the Green Monster to Christian Vazquez on the first pitch of his outing.

That homer put the Red Sox ahead 5-3.

Jonathan Schoop hit a solo home run in the ninth inning off Red Sox left-handed reliever Matt Strahm to make it a 5-4 margin. After Strahm recorded two outs, the Red Sox replaced him with righty John Schreiber — a former Tiger — to face Báez.

Báez singled to give the Tigers life, but Cabrera grounded out to end the game. Báez finished 3-for-5 and was a double shy of the cycle.

“It’s 27 outs,” Hinch said. “You got to play to the end. We had a chance at the end, but one run short.”

Brieske vs. Hill

The Tigers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, thanks to Báez’s triple and Cabrera’s ensuing two-strike RBI single on a grounder into center field off Hill’s curveball.

The Red Sox quickly returned the favor, as Duran and Devers started the bottom half of the frame with consecutive singles. Both players moved the ball forward on Brieske’s changeup, which is the rookie’s best pitch.

Martinez, a former Tiger, evened the score, 1-1, on a sacrifice fly.

[ Tigers trade catcher Ryan Lavarnway to Marlins for cash considerations ]

Neither pitcher blinked in the second inning, but Báez — who hammers left-handed pitchers — rocked Hill with a 390-foot solo home run in the third to put the Tigers ahead 2-1.

“He’s been very disciplined in letting the ball travel a little bit further,” Hinch said. “I think he’s seeing the ball well. He’s hitting it hard. Even his swings when he’s fouling them off are a better version of what he is. This is the exciting side of him that we need to continue to move forward.”

Although Báez is hitting a sour .206 on the year, he has improved in his past six games, hitting .409 (9-for-22) with two homers, three RBIs, one walk and two strikeouts. His five homers, tied with Jeimer Candelario, and trails Schoop by one homer for the team lead.

In the fourth inning, Trevor Story launched a three-run home run off Brieske’s slider to put the Red Sox back on top, 4-2. Story, along with Báez, was one of five premier shortstops in this past offseason’s free-agent class.

“It was the separator,” Hinch said. “That’s the one he’s going to look back at and be frustrated.”

The Tigers responded with two outs in the fifth inning.

Cabrera singled with two strikes, putting runners at the corners for Eric Haase. Robbie Grossman created the scoring opportunity with a one-out walk, and after Cabrera’s single, he scored on Haase’s single into left field.

It was the Tigers’ final run against Hill, trimming the deficit to 4-3.

For his 93 pitches, Brieske used 46 four-seam fastballs (49%), 22 sliders (24%), 18 changeups (19%) and seven two-seam fastballs (8%). He recorded eight swings and misses — three with his slider and two with his changeup — and 19 called strikes.

Like Brieske, Hill pitched five innings. He allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts, throwing 57 of 90 pitches for strikes.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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