The Red Sox are keeping their heads down. They aren’t looking over their shoulders, or even looking up at the standings. Their goal involves the process of the present. Play who’s in front of you, exist in the moment, and the rest will hopefully follow.
“Nothing changes,” manager Alex Cora said before Wednesday’s series finale with the Tigers. “We have to get this one tonight. We have to take care of business and if we don’t we [still] win the series. We’re not gonna get down.”
The Sox took care of business.
Their 6-2 win against the Tigers Wednesday cemented a three-game sweep and a 7-2 homestand to follow up a strong road trip. The Sox (39-31) are a season-high eight games over .500. They are 16-4 over 20 games in June, outscoring their opponents 98-59 over that span.
The results have certainly followed.
Observations from the game:
▪ Tarik Skubal has been a bright spot on an otherwise putrid Tigers team. The Detroit lefthander entered his start sporting a 3.13 ERA in 13 starts (74 ⅔ innings), with 79 strikeouts .
But Skubal struggled in his previous two outings, allowing a combined nine runs (all earned), and entered searching for a bounceback start. Instead, he had six runs charged to his pitching bill in just 4 ⅔ innings.
⋅ The Sox were relentless at the plate, beginning with Jarren Duran, whose two-run double down the left field line in the third inning knotted the game at 2-2. Duran’s extra-base hit, in part, was made possible by his at-bat in the first inning.
Skubal sports a five-pitch mix and Duran saw his full arsenal with the exception of his changeup. In a nine-pitch at-bat, Duran fouled off five pitches, before reaching on an error when his speed forced Javy Baéz into an errant throw.
“If you go down [on the minimum number of pitches] in the first, then you start to second guess yourself,” Duran said. “So, seeing a lot of pitches is always a good thing. Even if you get out, it’s like ‘I saw all this stuff already and I know how to prepare for my next at-bat.”
In the third, Skubal went inside to Duran with a sinker. The outfielder got the result he wanted after just two pitches this time, pulling his hands in and shooting the ball the other way.
▪ Rob Refsnyder followed Duran’s exploits with his first homer for the Red Sox and his first of the season, a two-run blast to left-center that was initially ruled a double prior to review. Refsnyder has made his mark during his short time with the Sox, batting .409 in 32 plate appearances.
“So many different parts of my career early on, I wasn’t excited or happy with how I was playing,” Refnsyder said. “So to come here and get with the staff to work on a couple of new things [is huge]. Player development is a big, big thing.”
▪ The Sox stuck with that opposite-field approach against Skubal in the fifth. This time it was Alex Verdugo who took a sinker in and shot it the other way for a two-run single. It stretched the Sox lead to 6-2, giving Boston plenty of insurance.
▪ Michael Wacha looked as if he would be in for a rough night.
The Tigers jumped on Wacha from the outset following a two-run homer by Baéz in the top of the first. It was Baéz’s second homer in as many nights and his third against the Red Sox this year.
“I like to be clean early on in the game but sometimes it doesn’t go that way and I just kind of got ambushed on a first-pitch heater by Baéz,” Wacha said. “I just try to forget it and know that we still have a lot of game left.”
The Tigers couldn’t muster anything else against Wacha, who went on to complete five consecutive scoreless innings to finish his six-inning performance, which included seven strikeouts and just five hits allowed.
“Overall, [Wacha] managed the game,” Cora said. “He gave us what we needed.”
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.