The Red Sox needed everything to come together Wednesday evening against the Tigers.
Their offense was partially responsible for the team dropping five straight contests, batting just .230 with 52 strikeouts and a .616 OPS. The starters played a part, too, with a 9.70 ERA and only one start of at least five innings.
But when the dust settled in the Motor City, the Sox erased the demons, at least for a moment, with a 4-1 win.
It came via a 10-strikeout performance from Eduardo Rodriguez (8-6), a season high for the lefthander and part of a season-high 18 by the Red Sox staff. It also came via the home run, as four registered all the game’s scoring.
“It was big for us,” Rodriguez said. “I mean, just after these five losses, I feel like this is a huge win that we needed. Now it’s time to go out there and try to win every series.”
The Red Sox can win this series Thursday, when Martín Pérez (7-7, 4.56) goes for his first victory in exactly a month, opposed by Detroit lefty Tarik Skubal (6-10, 4.53).
J.D. Martinez got things going in the second inning, his solo shot to right-center his first homer since July 21. With two outs in the fifth, Kiké Hernández stung his 15th of the year, a two-run shot to left to make it 3-0. Jarren Duran made it back-to-back with a solo shot to left, building off a two-hit night Tuesday.
“We’ve been talking about chasing pitches but at the same time, when we get our pitches, we don’t want to miss them,” manager Alex Cora said. “When we swing in the strike zone, we have to do damage. And tonight we did.”
Hernández’s hit was their lone one with runners in scoring position, Boston going 1 for 11 and stranding seven, but it was enough.
Rodriguez had been scuffling, his ERA back up to 5.60 and his last start against the Blue Jays arguably his worst of the season. He lasted just 3⅓ innings, and relinquished six earned runs backed by seven hits and four walks.
In the first, he issued a one-out walk to Jonathan Schoop and allowed a single to Robbie Grossman, putting runners at first and third. It appeared as if Rodriguez, who had been cut down by the one bad inning (or two) previously, was about to fall victim in his first frame. But the lefthander responded with back-to-back strikeouts against Miguel Cabrera and Eric Haase.
The Tigers had no chance at Rodriguez’s heater all night — he threw it on 54 of his 99 pitches, and got 12 swings and misses and 13 called strikes. He was most effective at the top of the zone, a plan both he and catcher Christian Vázquez felt they could exploit as the Detroit offense gained more definition.
“I feel like the hitters always show you the way you’re going to approach the game,” Rodriguez said. “You have the game plan, you have the scouting report. You do everything, but I feel like most of the time, you do what the hitters tell you to do and today was attacking at the top of the strike zone.”
Rodriguez did struggle to locate at times, and that might have haunted him against a better team. He matched his season-worst four walks from Thursday, and needed 99 pitches to last five innings despite allowing just two hits.
Yet he wiggled his way out of innings. With Hirokazu Sawamura warming in the fifth, Rodriguez issued a leadoff walk to Zack Short, then another after back-to-back strikeouts. But Rodriguez found his way out of the jam, striking out Grossman to end the threat.
Detroit got on the board in the seventh, Schoop blasting a long solo shot off Josh Taylor, but couldn’t get the critical hit it needed to tighten things late.
The Tigers put two on in the sixth against Sawamura with one out, but he fanned both Grayson Greiner and Short looking. Cora went to Adam Ottavino after Taylor followed the two-out Schoop homer with a walk, but Cabrera flew out on a first-pitch slider. Jeimer Candelario cracked a one-out double against Ottavino in the eighth, but he recovered to strike out Willi and Harold Castro.
Boston pitchers had a season high in strikeouts even before Matt Barnes, reactivated from the COVID-19 injured list before the game, fanned two in the ninth for his 24th save. The 18 easily topped the 15 Red Sox pitchers totaled four times earlier this season. Detroit, meanwhile, is responsible for two of the four times this season a team has fanned 18 times in a nine-inning game.
“Eddie got through five strong innings and put us in a good position to win a ballgame,” Barnes said.