A four-run eighth inning saved the Red Sox from what would have been their worst series loss of the season Thursday, as they pulled out a 12-9 win over the Tigers at Fenway Park.
The Tigers, the worst team in baseball, had the Red Sox on the ropes, leading, 9-8, in the bottom of the eighth.
With Rafael Devers at first after reaching on an error, Detroit reliever Alex Lange fanned both Marwin Gonzalez and Hunter Renfroe. But after Kevin Plawecki negotiated a two-out walk, manager Alex Cora called on Christian Vázquez to pinch hit.
Vázquez worked the count full, then he stung a 97-mile-per-hour heater down the third base line for a single that tied the game.
The next batter, Franchy Cordero, hit a slow tapper that Tigers third baseman Jemeir Candelario couldn’t handle, allowing pinch runner Christian Arroyo to come home with the go-ahead run.
A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, and Alex Verdugo’s single up the middle scored them both.
“It’s a big league win,” Cora said. “And you’ve got to take them. We have to address a lot of stuff. We know that we’ve been saying that over the course of the first month. And for us to get to where we want to go, we have to be a lot better. Today was a reminder.”
Despite the Red Sox’ 19-13 record, which leads the American League East, this series highlighted some of their deficiences. The pitching staff allowed 22 runs over the three games. That’s against a Tigers offense that ranked 28th in runs entering Thursday’s game. The bullpen allowed 10 runs in the series. Nate Eovaldi allowed six runs (all earned) in his start on Thursday.
Garrett Whitlock has proven to be human, surrendering four runs (three earned) in his last two appearances. That included a three-run homer in the 10th inning Wednesday, the deciding runs in the Tigers’ 6-5 win. Matt Andriese, who allowed just two earned runs in his first 12⅔ innings, has yielded four in his last three appearances.
Franchy Cordero did break an 0-for-25 skid on Thursday, going 3 for 5 with a double, a positive sign in what has been a horrific start to his Red Sox career.
“It was tough,” Cordero said through interpreter Bryan Almonte. “This is a hard game. If it was easy, then everyone would be able to do it. But I just kept working hard with the coaches. I spoke to a lot of my teammates.”
Thursday’s game might represent a turning point for Cordero, whose teammates said he looked more confident at the plate.
Nonetheless, the Red Sox lineup remains imbalanced, specifically the 6 through 9 spots in the batting order. In 476 plate appearances entering Thursday, that part of the order had just a .550 OPS (third-worst in the majors).
Renfroe, Gonzalez, and Bobby Dalbec were a combined 1 for 13 Thursday with six strikeouts (each with two). Dalbec continues to sputter, but Cora said he’s going to stick with the rookie.
“We just have to keep working with him,” Cora said. “At this level, it’s not that easy. And I know he was very successful last year. But we know that there’s still work to do. We’re going to keep working with him to get out of this.”
The Sox on Friday night begin a four-game set against an Orioles team that swept them in three games at Fenway to start the season. Though the Red Sox returned the favor a week later at Camden Yards, the Orioles have proven to be a gritty bunch, playing roughly .500 baseball.
Looking toward that series, Cora knows the Sox have to be more locked in, understanding what could happen if they aren’t.
“The same way we were hot in April,” Cora said, “you can go the other way around, if we don’t keep working and keep getting better.”