Tigers sweep away Red Sox in doubleheader
It was a good thing they showed Bruins highlights on the Fenway Park scoreboard Tuesday night. There wasn’t much for fans to cheer about down on the diamond.
The Red Sox lost both games in a day-night doubleheader against the Tigers and fell to 9-15 on the season. The bullpen couldn’t hold up after a solid start from Chris Sale in the first game, a 7-4 loss. Then the offense sputtered in the nightcap, going 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position, unable to support a patchwork group of pitchers in a 4-2 loss.
“We haven’t had a big offensive output out there where we can enjoy it and breathe and relax, just have fun offensively,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “Hopefully we can get it together and keep working at it and it happens soon.”
One silver lining was Chris Sale, who started the early game, struck out 10 batters and looked relatively Sale-like. But Sale left with the score tied after only five innings and the bullpen collapsed over the remaining four.
“I at least gave my team a chance to win when I left the ballgame, but I’m still relying on my bullpen guys too much,” Sale said.
Sale gave up two earned runs and five hits, including a game-tying home run to catcher Grayson Greiner in the fifth inning, the sixth Sale has surrendered this season. He threw 97 pitches, 72 for strikes, both season highs. He walked only two batters, but the Tigers fouled off plenty of good pitches, put together long at-bats, and wore down Sale early.
“Give [the Tigers] credit for getting that pitch count up in five innings and then they did what they did with the bullpen,” Cora said.
The score was tied, 3-3, in the eighth when Colten Brewer (0-2, 8.31 ERA) came in to pitch for the Sox. He got into trouble quickly, walking Niko Goodrum to start the inning and then giving up a one-out double to Ronny Rodriguez (3 for 4 with two doubles, a home run, and two RBIs) to put runners on second and third.
Josh Harrison put the Tigers ahead to stay with a two-run double, then scored on a Greiner single to make it 6-3. Brewer got out of the inning when JaCoby Jones grounded into a double play, but the damage was done.
“Stuff wasn’t really there today,” Brewer said. “Walking the first guy isn’t the best thing you should do.”
Cora agreed that command was a problem for Brewer and said that the bullpen needs to be better.
The Tigers tacked on another run in the ninth against lefthander Bobby Poyner, who was optioned to Triple A Pawtucket after the game, before Xander Bogaerts hit his second solo homer of the game to close out the scoring in the ninth.
The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the third inning off Tigers starter and winner Matthew Boyd (7 innings, 3 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts) thanks to a leadoff walk from Christian Vazquez, a double from Tzu-Wei Lin, and a two-out, two-run single from Mookie Betts. J.D. Martinez struck out swinging to end the inning, part of an 0-for-4 performance that ended his streak of reaching base in his first 22 games this season.
Sale, who started the game auspiciously by striking out the .213-hitting Jeimer Candelario swinging on a 94-mile-per-hour fastball and struck out two Tigers in every inning, gave up solo runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Greiner’s home run came on a 92-m.p.h. fastball over the middle of the plate.
Heath Hembree relieved Sale in the sixth, but he hung a one-out breaking ball that Rodriguez hammered 392 feet to left for a solo homer. Bogaerts answered in the bottom of the inning to tie the score again.
Cora said he has talked with Hembree about his offspeed pitches and acknowledged that has been a problem area.
“That’s been going on, I think, since the last part of the season last year,” Cora said. “You know his fastball plays at this level. We believe that.”
Sale remained winless (0-4, 7.43 ERA) in five starts, and the team has lost all five games. Though he was upbeat after the game, Sale said he won’t be satisfied until he’s pitching deeper into starts and preserving the bullpen.
“It just seems like every time I’m out there we’re just leaning on these guys and that’s a tough spot to put them in,” Sale said.
Hector Velazquez couldn’t go deep into the game, either, in the nightcap. The 30-year-old righthander, filling the spot left by the injured Nathan Eovaldi, lasted 3⅔ innings. He came out in the fourth, leaving the bases loaded for Marcus Walden. Brandon Dixon promptly cleared them with a double.
The final five innings were handled by lefthander Darwinzon Hernandez (2⅓ innings) and righty Travis Lakins (2⅔ innings), who were each making their major-league debuts.
Hernandez started the fifth inning. The highly touted 22-year-old averaged 94.2-m.p.h. on his fastball and struck out four. He gave up four hits, one walk, and no earned runs on 50 pitches.
“We knew that at one point they were going to contribute and they did today, they helped us out to hopefully accomplish stuff [Wednesday] because of where we were pitching-wise,” Cora said of Hernandez and Lakins. “But those two kids, we’re going to turn this around and, like I said in spring training, they’re going to contribute to what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The Red Sox pulled within a run in the eighth inning when Michael Chavis crushed his first career home run, a shot over the Monster seats, but Detroit got one back on an RBI double by John Hicks in the ninth.
Chavis got to keep his home run ball because a fan found it outside the park and gave it back in exchange for a ball signed by Dustin Pedroia. Chavis said he knew it would go over the Monster the moment he hit it.
“I felt like I was floating, honestly,” Chavis said. “Just kind of tried not to sprint. I’ve seen a couple videos of guys hitting their first home runs and they sprint because they’re so excited. I kind of tried to act like I’ve hit a home run before.”
Boston’s only other run came from Bogaerts on an RBI single in the seventh inning. Bogaerts was 3 for 8 with three RBIs in the two games.