Well, that was a roller coaster of emotions. The Red Sox found themselves down for most of the game, then had a quick high before getting right back down. Ugh.
Steven Wright made his first start of the season on Friday, and it was a mixed bag. It didn’t get off to a good start, as he allowed the first two runners to reach base on a single and a walk. After Ian Kinsler moved over to third on a flyout to right field, he’d score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of former Red Sox Victor Martinez. Just like that, the Tigers were up 1-0.
After that, things settled down for the knuckleballer over the next few frames. He’d allow a baserunner in each of the next three innings, but only faced three batters in each of them. In the second and third innings, he induced double plays while Tyler Collins was caught stealing to end the fourth.
After a 1-2-3 fifth, he came back out for the sixth. This was another rough inning, mostly due to a triple to Nick Castellanos on a ripped fly ball into the left-center field gap. He followed that up with an intentional walk of Miguel Cabrera (it was one of the new no-pitch intentional walks) before Martinez came through yet again. This time, the Tigers DH hit an RBI single to put Detroit up 2-0.
Up to this point in the game, things were constantly frustrating for the Red Sox offense. Michael Fulmer, the reigning Rookie of the Year, was pitching fine but Boston’s makeshift lineup had their chances. Their first big opportunity came in the third inning, when consecutive two-out singles and a hit by pitch gave Mitch Moreland a bases loaded chance. He struck out, and the rally ended without a run.
A couple innings later in the fifth, Pablo Sandoval led things off with a big double into the right field corner, and it looked like the Red Sox’ chance. Brock Holt would draw a one-out walk to put two on, and Dustin Pedroia grounded into a fielder’s choice to put two in scoring position with two down for Andrew Benintendi. The rookie couldn’t come through, though, and hit a routine fly out to left field.
All of this brings us to the seventh inning, and this is when the seesaw game really started to get going. In the top half of the frame, Sandoval once again got on base, this time on a gift of an error by Collins in right field. He lost the ball in the sun and wind, and Sandoval would make it to second and eventually to third on a wild pitch. Nobody could take advantage, though, with Marco Hernandez softly lining out and Steve Selsky striking out.
Wright would come back out with 86 pitches for the bottom half of the seventh. Despite getting roughed up a bit in the previous frame, it didn’t seem like a horrible play by Farrell in my eyes. In hindsight, though, perhaps a change should’ve been made. Things went downhill quickly, as Collins singled to lead off the inning before James McCann crushed a flat knuckleball into the left field seats. That put the Tigers up 4-0, and the score would remain that way through the inning. Ben Taylor ended the frame with a strikeout in his first major-league appearance.
As it turns out, the eighth was the designated inning for Boston to score runs on Friday. After a quick first out, Benintendi drew a walk and stole second before being pushed to third on a single from Moreland. Then, Chris Young came through with an RBI double and gave Jackie Bradley a chance with two runners in scoring position. He’d come through with a single to score one and bring Boston within two.
It was at this point that the fireworks went off. After a strikeout by Sandy Leon, Sandoval came up representing the go-ahead run with two down. The third baseman came through with a huge three-run homer to left-center field on a pitch that was up and away out of the strike zone. I mean, look at this. He hit this pitch out.
The reach from Sandoval to get that pitch from KRod and drive it... pic.twitter.com/by2vgLglvp— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) April 7, 2017
The Red Sox would leave the inning with a 5-4 lead.
Unfortunately, the bullpen just couldn’t do the job. Heath Hembree started the inning, and looked impressive in the first two at bats. It wasn’t perfect, as Castellanos and Cabrera both put on tough battles against the righty. He ended up coming away with strikeouts against both, though. From there, as they say, it was all downhill. Martinez battled Hembree and drew a nine-pitch walk (with some borderline calls mixed in there) and Justin Upton took a five-pitch walk to put two on.
With the lefty Collins coming up, John Farrell called on Robby Scott. Of course, the Tigers countered by pinch hitting the right-handed Mikie Mahtook. He’d come through with a big RBI double to tie the game.
Instead of going with Kimbrel in this situation — a tie game with runners on second and third — Farrell called upon Joe Kelly. Kelly rewarded that decision with two consecutive walks to give Detroit the lead.
The Red Sox tried to rally in the top half of the ninth, with Pedroia reaching on an infield single and Moreland coming through with a big double to right field. Unfortunately, on the latter play, Mahtook made a good play in the corner to cut the ball off before it hit the wall. If he hadn’t, Pedroia almost certainly scores to tie the game. Instead, it left the Red Sox with two in scoring position with two outs for Chris Young. He popped out to first base to end the ballgame.
In all, this was a frustrating loss. The offense couldn’t take advantage of early opportunities, Wright had some lapses in his start and the bullpen just lost all semblance of control in that fateful eighth inning. Farrell will get some blame for this loss, and it’s partially fair. As I said above, I didn’t really have a problem with bringing Wright in for the seventh, but not going to Kimbrel in the eighth seems like a mistake. Of course, it’s still really early in the season and Farrell appears to be approaching things cautiously at this point.
Farrell: "There'll be a time this season when we go to Kimbrel for four outs, but not in Game 3."— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) April 7, 2017
I would counter that explanation by saying Kimbrel could just get the one out and someone else could come in for the ninth, but at that point I’d just be talking to myself in my apartment. And what would that accomplish?
At the end of the day, it’s just one loss in the first week of the season in a game in which the Red Sox put out a lineup that was missing multiple stars. That won’t stop me from being frustrated as hell, though.