This lineup needs to stop being sick. It was another frustrating day for the offense, and while Eduardo Rodriguez wasn’t great he was good enough for a win.
The offense was going up against Jordan Zimmermann, who was making his first start of 2017 after struggling in his first season in Detroit last year. After a quick 1-2-3 first inning, they looked like they were going to get some things going in the second. Mitch Moreland continued the little hot streak he has going by leading off the frame with a double into the right field corner. Pablo Sandoval would move him over to third with a deep flyout to center field, and Moreland would come around to score on a sacrifice fly from Jackie Bradley. It wasn’t just any fly out, though. The ball travelled 412 feet, which would obviously be a home run in just about any other park outside of Comerica. Still, the Red Sox took an early 1-0 lead and they were making tremendous contact in the inning.
Unfortunately, that was all the damage that would be done from the lineup in this one. They had their chances, but they just couldn’t come through. In the third, for example, Christian Vazquez had a one-out double that was followed by a Brock Holt walk and a Dustin Pedroia base hit to load the bases for Andrew Benintendi. The rookie would ground into a double play to end the inning without a run.
The next inning was started off with another hit by Mitch Moreland. It was only a single because Mikie Mahtook played the ball perfectly in the right field corner. Either way, Moreland would be stranded after three quick outs.
While all of this was happening to the offense, Eduardo Rodriguez was looking a lot like himself in his first start of 2017. And I mean that in both the best and worst ways possible. From the outset, he was looking like the breakout candidate we were all hoping he’d be this season.
The first inning was a quick 1-2-3 frame that included an impressive strikeout of Miguel Cabrera. He’d get into a bit of trouble in the second, walking two in the frame, but he escaped unscathed thanks to Justin Upton getting caught stealing on a good throw/catch/tag combination from Vazquez and Pedroia.
In the third inning, the trouble really got started. In reality, it was just one bad pitch, but it was enough. With one out, old friend Jose Iglesias came to the plate and Rodriguez left a fastball right down the heart of the plate for the shortstop. Iglesias paid him back by launching it into the seats in left field with what was probably the best swing I’ve ever seen the infielder take. Just like that, the game was tied at one. Things could’ve gone worse in the inning, but Rodriguez was bailed out by two phenomenal defense plays — by Marco Hernandez and Jackie Bradley — to end the inning.
After a fourth inning that did include a walk but was otherwise a strong one from the Red Sox starter, Rodriguez started to fall apart a bit in the fifth. Things started strong with a strikeout, but then he left a fastball middle-in to James McCann, and for the second straight game the Tigers catcher launched it over the left field wall. That put Detroit up by one. Jacoby Jones would follow that up with a hard-hit double to the left-center field gap and moved to third on a wild pitch that just sailed away from Rodriguez. That brought Iglesias up, and once again the former Red Sox came through. This time, it was an RBI double into the right field gap. He’d come around to score on an RBI single from Ian Kinsler, who got thrown out in a rundown between first and second on the play. The Tigers would leave the inning with a 4-1 lead, and after striking out Nick Castellanos to end the frame, Rodriguez would be done for the day.
Rodriguez did have five strikeouts in his five innings of work, and generally speaking his stuff looked good. It was a good base on which to build the rest of his season. The command just wasn’t there, though. He walked three batters, got behind in a few too many counts, had the wild pitch and left too many balls up in the zone.
Meanwhile, the offense didn’t stop its frustrating ways. In the seventh inning, Marco Hernandez singled and Vazquez was hit by a pitch (for the second time in the game), both coming with two outs. After a wild pitch moved them both to scoring position, Holt looked at strike three and the inning was over without a run.
It didn’t get any easier to watch in the eighth. Things looked promising to start, with Pedroia starting the inning with a walk and Andrew Benintendi following it up with a base hit. Two runners on to start the inning, again. There’s no way they can go scoreless again, right? RIGHT? Wrong. Moreland would ground into a fielder’s choice for the first out before Pablo Sandoval hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
To make matters more frustrating, it wasn’t like the flu lineup was weakly making its way through the game. They were making a ton of good contact off the Tigers pitchers that were just finding gloves. By my count, the Red Sox had five flyouts that either reached the track or were caught right in front of it.
Closing out the game for the Red Sox were Ben Taylor and Noe Ramirez. The former came right out and immediately struck out Cabrera and Victor Martinez before inducing a fly out from Justin Upton to finish the sixth inning easily. He started to lose his control a bit as his pitch count approached 30 in the following inning, but Ramirez bailed him out by getting the final two outs of the seventh with two runners on. He tossed a 1-2-3 eighth, as well, and was aided by another ridiculous catch by Bradley.
The ninth was uneventful in the box score for the Red Sox, as they limped out of the game with a 1-2-3 inning. However, Bradley led off the inning with a flyout to left field, and while he was casually rounding first he tripped. He was holding his knee on the ground, and the training staff came out to take a look. The good news is he didn’t limp and walked off under his own power, but we don’t have official word on any injury just yet. We’ll keep you posted.
Overall, it’s hard to get too angry about these losses when you consider the lineup they’re rolling out there. Xander Bogaerts should be back in a couple days, and Mookie Betts will probably be back as soon as tomorrow. It’s not a perfect excuse, since the lineup on the field still had their chances and blew them, but this is not even close to the full-strength Red Sox. The good news is Rodriguez’ stuff looked sharp, the bullpen pitched well and Bradley may have avoided serious injury. Other than that, it was just another frustrating day of baseball.
UPDATE: Things seem to be okay with Bradley, who has said he is going to play on Sunday.