DETROIT — The Red Sox never make it easy on themselves.
Manager Alex Cora stood in his office late Friday night and pointed to that as one of his team’s flaws this season. It had just won, 9-6, but saw a five-run Detroit Tigers deficit all of a sudden shrink to a one-run game at the end of the sixth.
Saturday’s 10-6 Sox victory over the Tigers almost replicated what transpired the previous night.
By the end of this game, the Sox had 17 hits but their pitching staff gave up 14. However, the Sox figured out a way to pull out their fourth win in five games after Steven Wright shut the door in the ninth.
The Sox will go into the All-Star break having taken their last two series after a forgettable one in London. Still, like much of their games this season, it wasn’t easy.
“I know it’s a grind,” Cora said. “It’s been a grind since we got on that plane to Europe.”
After more than a four-hour rain delay Saturday, the Sox jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first, beginning with a Mookie Betts triple off starter Jordan Zimmerman. Three batters later Andrew Benintendi tripled, too. The last time the Sox tripled twice in the first inning was July 5, 1963 when Gary Geiger and Earl Wilson hit triples off Dave DeBusschere of the Chicago White Sox.
Zimmerman’s outing lasted just 3⅓ innings. By the end of it he had given up seven earned runs on a whopping 13 hits. Rafael Devers’s single in the fourth inning off the right field wall extended his hit streak to 10 games. By the end of the fourth the Sox held a comfortable 7-0 advantage.
That advantage soon vanished, because, again, this year’s Sox don’t make it easy on themselves.
Rick Porcello seemed to have bounced back from his previous start against the Yankees in which he couldn’t get out of the first inning and surrendered six runs. He worked three scoreless innings of baseball. Yet in typical Sox fashion it fell apart. Jeimer Candelario belted a two-run homer to make it 7-2, in the fourth. In the sixth inning, Candelario got to Porcello again, this time a solo shot to bring the Tigers within four.
Porcello then gave up two singles, followed by a wild pitch which moved runners to second and third. Bobby Wilson delivered yet another single, scoring an additional two Tigers’ runs and shrinking the Sox’ margin to two. Cora called on Colten Brewer to relieve Porcello of his duties with two outs in the sixth.
“Everything was going fine through five innings,” Porcello said. “The sixth again I got hit around. I was definitely looking to go deeper — at least go seven. The offense did an unbelievable job. It’s really frustrating on my end. I have to do a better job from start to finish”
Porcello now carries a 5.33 ERA on the year, which further highlights the inconsistencies of the pitching staff and why the Sox struggle to put their opponents away at times.
The Tigers tacked on another run in the sixth after Brewer gave up a triple to Alex Reyes. Brewer then got Nicholas Castellanos swinging to end the frame with his Red Sox team carrying just a one-run lead into the seventh.
The Sox added an insurance run in the seventh. With the bases loaded, Devers hit a routine chopper back to reliever Buck Farmer, who bobbled the ball and delivered an errant throw. But the Sox made the bottom half of that frame laborious once more by loading the bases with just one out, though they would eventually get out of it.
To expect the Sox to continue producing at this offensive rate isn’t realistic. They came into this game scoring 7½ runs in their last four contests and picked up right where they left off Saturday.
“They’ve [the batters] been carrying us the entire year, really,” Porcello said. “They’re the heart and soul right now. Myself, I have to pitch better. David Price has been throwing the ball well and our bullpen has been carrying a lot of the load. We just need to piece it all together. ”
Benintendi tallied four hits on the evening after sitting out the two previous games due to a slight offensive lull. Betts had his second three-hit game in two days and is starting to square the ball up more consistently.
“We did a good job putting together good at-bats,” Cora said. “Obviously what Mookie is doing it feels like he’s getting there. And everybody knows when he gets going we get going and the fun begins.
The Red Sox clubhouse understands that time is ticking. There’s still another half to the season, but Cora sounded his team’s alarm after being swept in London by the Yankees. The Red Sox are fighting and pulled out their last two series victories, but they haven’t come against a formidable foe that poses a postseason threat to the Sox. Yet at this point, as his club crawls to the break, Cora will take wins however he can get them — even if it means the hard way.
“I think the guys have done an outstanding job the last five games of winning four out of five,” Cora said. “We have one more (before the break). If we win one more, it’s 49 wins. We’re almost there. It’s not easy. It hasn’t been easy.”