The Red Sox took a game they had little chance to win, nearly pulled off a miracle, then watched John Farrell throw it all away.
The bottom of the second was perhaps the most complicated bunch of nothing that ever has been, all thanks to a really bad call by first base umpire Jerry Layne. With J.D. Martinez at first, Casey McGehee lifted a fly ball to shallow right field, which Jackie Bradley Jr. made a diving attempt on. Despite Bradley only getting his glove on the ball, and clearly having to scoop the it up after it rolled under him, Layne signaled the catch, leaving J.D. Martinez running back to first as the Red Sox tried for a "double play".
Ultimately, replay would get the non-catch right, but the question remained about what to do with Martinez. The umpires decided to put him on third despite the fact that he seemed to stop and hedge towards second even before the call was made at first, making it unclear that he would have made it to third had Martinez himself not been unsure of the result even without the incorrect call coming from first. When Jarrod Saltalamacchia brought him in with a sacrifice fly, it looked like that call might have earned the Tigers an extra run. Brian Butterfield even got himself thrown out in the process.
But then Andrew Romine singled, too, pretty much nullifying the bizarre play. Long story short, a three-hit, one-run second inning for Clay Buchholz.
The depleted Boston lineup, meanwhile, was busy putting men on and leaving them there. In the first, a pair of two-out singles went by the wayside when Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded out. In the third, it was the first two batters who reached, with Xander Bogaerts producing an ugly K, Mookie Betts flying out, and--after Hanley Ramirez walked--Jackie Bradley Jr. once again finding a glove, this time out in left field.
As has often been the case when they've stranded runners before, they broke through by going deep. And as has often been the case since he broke into the starting lineup, it was Sandy Leon doing the honors, just barely finding the range to left field. Meanwhile, surprisingly enough, Clay Buchholz was putting on quite the performance, pitching through the end of the sixth without allowing another run, finishing even stronger than he'd started with a pair of strikeouts.
After Robbie Ross got the Sox through the seventh, the lineup finally managed to put together a sustained rally, starting off the eighth with three straight singles from Bogaerts, Betts, and Ramirez to take a 2-1 lead. And while Jackie Bradley Jr. would ground into a double play to keep the inning from getting completely out of hand, a wild pitch from Justin Wilson allowed Betts to come home and make it 3-1.
And then...the bottom of the inning.
Junichi Tazawa, for all the world, looks cooked. He looked cooked a week ago when I wrote this. But for some reason, one day after the Red Sox bullpen was given the game off thanks to the rain, John Farrell turned to him to face no less than the top of the Tigers order. Nine pitches later, and the Tigers had a run in and men on the corners after three straight hits. Even if you can countenance letting him face the first two batters, leaving him in for Cabrera as though some magic of 2013 is going to reach through the years and fix the broken reliever was utter negligence.
The Sox hoped Brad Ziegler could save them as he had against the Diamondbacks, today he wasn't up to the task. While Ziegler did manage to get his outs, they came intermixed with a couple walks and a hit. Without Tazawa's disaster outing it would have been a sketchy hold, but likely scoreless all the same. With it? It was a 4-3 lead for the Tigers, a blown save, and an utter shame given how long the Red Sox' odds were coming into this thing.
The Red Sox would have a chance to tie things up in the ninth, and came oh-so-close to do so with the Tigers deciding to pitch to Mookie Betts with two men in scoring position. But when Mookie Betts ripped a line drive, he did so too close Ian Kinsler, allowing the second baseman to snag the ball and end the game.
It's a loss that we kind of had penciled in, which makes it all the more frustrating that the Red Sox actually had enough in the tank to win this one. If only their damn manager hadn't thrown the game away hoping against hope that he could get another inning out of Junichi Tazawa when all signs point to that being a long shot indeed. And no, the fact that the bullpen is not replete with great options is not a reason to choose one of the worst. Hembree or Ziegler or even Kimbrel--yes, the closer to face the top hitters, crazy, I know--would have been preferable to start that eighth (Barnes, apparently, was unavailable). Instead he went with Tazawa. The really surprising thing is that he didn't decide to follow it up with Abad.