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Hunter Renfroe is starting to find a groove, and that helped the Red Sox win series opener vs. Tigers

Hunter Renfroe slides in safely with one of his two runs scored Tuesday. He also homered as part of a 3-for-4 night at the plate.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Hunter Renfroe believed his swing was there. The approach despite the lackluster numbers (hitting just .191 entering Tuesday night) was there. Good fortune, Renfroe noted, wasn’t.

”I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball hard,” Renfroe said Sunday. “Just haven’t been finding a hole to hit it in. There’s no necessarily big adjustment for me to make right now except for just keeping the ball out of a glove.”

On Tuesday, Renfroe finally saw his barrels meet results. In the Sox’ 11-7 win against the Tigers, Renfroe finished a triple shy of the cycle. His 3 for 4 night included two runs scored and two RBIs.


In his at-bat in the seventh, Renfroe flied out on a hard-hit ball to right. If it weren’t caught, Renfroe would have had another extra-base hit, and he certainly had a triple on his mind.

“I wasn’t going to stop at second, that’s for sure,” Renfroe said. “I was going to get thrown out at third before stopping at second. I was going for it.”

In his past three games Renfroe has collected six hits, and seeing the ball drop has given him some sense of reprieve.

“Any time you’re a baseball player, you want to see some hits fall,” Renfroe said. “It’s good. Like I said, just stay with my approach and I know it’s going to work out. I know, some balls are going to fall eventually. So now I can go there and work hard and keep hitting.”

Renfroe’s homer was his 100th of his career. Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts, and Kiké Hernández each homered, too, and the Red Sox collected 14 hits.

“We needed all that,” manager Alex Cora said. “We put together some good swings. We were relentless. We put the ball in play early. And that’s what we’re trying to do with the big part of the field. So when you do that, big things are going to happen.”


Yet what looked like a convincing win against the worst team in baseball suddenly turned into a late-night nailbiter for the Red Sox

Their underwhelming pitching, spearheaded by the team’s bullpen, forced Cora to go to Matt Barnes in a 10-7 game with just one out and the bases loaded in the eighth inning. Barnes induced a double play to preserve the lead.

“We had to go win the game,” Cora said. “You know, our offense did an outstanding job. You have to go to the best in that situation.”

Hernández’s homer in the bottom half of the eighth added an insurance run, followed by Barnes’ clean 1-2-3 ninth.

Christian Vázquez had three hits with two RBIs.

Xander Bogaerts flashes a smile as he circles the bases on his second-inning home run.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Red Sox (18-12) put up four runs in the first inning beginning with a J.D. Martinez force out that scored Hernández. With runners on the corners, Martinez hit a potential double play grounder to third base but beat it out just in time to score Hernández.

The Red Sox plated three more runs that inning off Tigers starter Michael Fulmer on RBI singles by Vázquez, Marwin Gonzalez, and Renfroe. It ultimately forced Tigers manager A.J. Hinch to go to his bullpen with just two outs in the first frame. By the end of three innings, the Sox had seen four different Tiger pitchers.

The first inning set the table for what ended up being a game charged by offense. Verdugo and Bogaerts left the yard in the following frame. Then Renfroe homered in the fifth to make it 9-3, his third hit of the evening.


Despite the offensive display, the Sox’ pitching had its struggles, too. Nick Pivetta gave the Sox five innings, yielding three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out eight.

“Nick was OK today. I mean, he battled with control,” Cora said. “They put some on bats, and it feels like he wasn’t as aggressive in the strike zone.

But when Austin Brice took over in the sixth inning, that lead quickly diminished, turning what appeared to be a blowout into an actual contest.

Xander Bogaerts sails over Detroit's Jeimer Candelario in the middle of an eighth inning on the way to a 4-6-3 double play.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Detroit’s Niko Goodrum led off the sixth with a single. After a flyout, Brice plunked Willi Castro. The next batter, JaCoby Jones, belted a three-run shot to left to make it 9-6 before a double by Victor Reyes ended Brice’s evening. Cora called on Matt Andriese from the bullpen, and he allowed an RBI single by Detroit’s Robbie Grossman that shrunk the Sox lead to 9-7. But Andriese recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat, including a called third strike on Miguel Cabrera to finish a 10-pitch at-bat.

In the end, the Sox’ bats saved the club.

“The thump that this lineup has is from one to nine is pretty incredible,” Renfroe said.

Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.