This was a strange game featuring a couple of teams who very obviously just had an extended break from playing baseball. There were a ton of squandered opportunities on both sides as well as some truly maddening defense for both squads. To be fair, there was also some really impressive pitching, and on the Red Sox side that was highlighted by David Price. The lefty was incredible to start this game, and while he started looking a bit shakier later in the game, he settled down when it mattered most. As we’ve said a bunch of late, starts against teams like the Tigers won’t really change much in terms of perception for Price, but it’s better than the alternative. It wasn’t the prettiest win, but it counts all the same.
For the early parts of this game, there wasn’t a whole lot of action on either side of the ball with both pitchers dominating. Well, for the most part. The Red Sox were able to get to the left-handed Matt Boyd in the first thanks to a little rally from the middle of the order. Andrew Benintendi started said rally with a single through the shift, and a four-pitch walk to J.D. Martinez brought Steve Pearce to the plate. The designated hitter for this game and fresh off a few extra days off after an injury to close the first half, Pearce came through in a big spot with a double into the left-center field gap. That would score Benintendi and put two in scoring position with just one out. Unfortunately, the Red Sox couldn’t build themselves a bigger lead right off the bat. Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland both grounded out — and Martinez was thrown out at home on the first one — and the inning was over with just a 1-0 lead.
After that rally, Boyd got into a major groove. He issued a two-out walk to Sandy León in the second, and that was the only baserunner he allowed between Pearce’s RBI double and another Benintendi single to lead off the sixth. In between in was ten batters in a row retired by the Tigers lefty.
Fortunately, the Red Sox were able to hold on to the lead despite a lack of offense thanks to great pitching from Price as well as some extreme luck. The first time through the order was all skill as the Boston lefty was looking like his early-season self. Price was working as quickly as he has all year (at least it seemed that way) and it paid off. The lefty retired the first nine batters he faced, mostly with ease. The one tough one was the ninth batter, who flew out to deep right field on a great play from Martinez. The slugger ran it down and slammed into the wall immediately after making the grab but was able to hold on.
The fourth was when things started to get weird for Price and the Red Sox. Detroit started that with two singles, and then got a third on a chopper to the mound that was deflected by Price. Just like that, the bases were loaded with nobody out. John Hicks then hit a fly ball to left field, and although the runner didn’t run home from third Benintendi made the throw home anyway. His toss was way off the mark, but Price backed up the play and prevented the runner from advancing. However, the runner on second (Jeimer Candelario) did not get the memo and was caught between second and third. That led to Price attempting to throw him out at second, but he waited a bit too long and his throw was in the dirt. Brock Holt was blocking the bag a bit and had to go down to get the ball, resulting in Candelario spiking Holt’s knee (it was a clean slide for those wondering). In the box score it goes down as a simple F7, but it was a bizarre play.
With Tzu-Wei Lin taking over at second base — it was later revealed that Holt had a knee contusion and was day-to-day — the Tigers still had a bases loaded opportunity. Price got some huge outs, though, with a strikeout and a flyout and the jam was escaped without a run crossing the plate.
The bottom half of the fifth was not quite as dramatic, but it certainly got dicy yet again. After starting the inning off with a strikeout, Price allowed a single to old friend Jose Iglesias before walking the number nine hitter JaCoby Jones. A ground ball looked to be an inning-ending double play, but instead Lin bobbled the transfer and the Red Sox had to settle for just one out, leaving runners on the corners with two down. Price got another big strikeout against Candelario, though, and another jam was escaped.
In the top of the sixth, the Red Sox offense finally started to get going again. Benintendi started that inning with a single and Martinez followed it up by reaching on an error by Boyd, leading to the Tigers starter being lifted. Bogaerts would later reach on an infield single, loading the bases with just one out. Moreland couldn’t come through, popping up to third base, leaving it all up to Eduardo Núñez. He couldn’t come through either, flying out to right field, leaving the bases loaded and keeping the score at just 1-0.
After Price tossed a 1-2-3 bottom half of the sixth, Boston’s offense had yet another chance in the seventh. Betts and Benintendi drew back-to-back two-out walks, but they would be stranded when Martinez hit a grounder to end the inning.
Price then came back out for the seventh and after an out and a hit batter, he was removed from the game. It was a strong day overall for Price, but he left with a runner on base and just a one-run lead. Heath Hembree was called upon to protect said lead, and he did just that with two strikeouts to strand the man on first.
The Red Sox got the leadoff man on in the eighth and eventually he’d make it to third with two outs, but once again they stranded the potential run. That brought Matt Barnes on for the bottom half with rain starting to fall in Detroit. Things did not get off to a good start in a very odd way. Barnes struck out the first two batters he faced, but Sandy León could not handle either offering. The first batter reached on his strikeout, and then he moved to third on the second. Barnes then got Nicholas Castellanos to hit a grounder to third, and that resulted in Niko Goodrum getting thrown out on a rundown at the plate, but Castellanos was able to move up to second base. After walking John Hicks, Barnes blew James McCann away with a fastball and the Red Sox escaped yet another bizarre inning.
The Sox would go down in order in the ninth, leaving it up to Craig Kimbrel to protect the 1-0 lead. He got a flyout to kick off the inning before allowing a one-out single to Leonys Martin. Iglesias then hit a grounder that resulted in an out at second before Kimbrel ended the game with a strikeout.
The Red Sox will look to keep their winning ways going and clinch a series victory on Saturday back in Detroit. They’ll send Brian Johnson to the hill to take on Mike Fiers, with first pitch at 6:10 PM ET.
Also, with it being post-All-Star break we will now keep up with the playoff race. As I write this the Yankees trail the Mets 7-5 in the top half of the ninth. If that score holds, Boston will go to bed tonight with a 5.5-game lead in the division. Pretty good!