This was a frustrating loss, even more so than your typical loss. The Red Sox offense failed to show up yet again, but this time the pitching wasn’t quite strong enough to keep them in the game. Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered what the pitchers did since Boston plated zero (0) runs. There’s really not much to be worried about with respect to this group — they’re really good! — but it’s not fun watching when they aren’t scoring runs. On a more positive note, Brian Johnson looked good in yet another start.
For the second straight game out of the All-Star break, the Red Sox offense really failed to get anything going against a Tigers starter. It was sort of a weird loss in that Boston simultaneously found a way to squander multiple opportunities while also feeling like they couldn’t ever get anything going. I don’t really know how to explain it. Xander Bogaerts in particular had a rough day, squandering three separate opportunities with runners on base. Overall, it’s not exactly concerning given the large sample of this group being great, it certainly wasn’t fun to watch in this game.
It was pretty clear from the very start of this evening that Red Sox hitters were going to have trouble as Fiers mowed through the top three hitters with Mookie Betts and Bogaerts striking out while Andrew Benintendi managed a routine ground out. Boston did get the leadoff man on in the second when Mitch Moreland singled, but that was all they’d get there.
The third was their first best chance, and the first time they seemingly missed Martinez. That inning included a pair of walks from Blake Swihart and Benintendi, eventually putting two on with two out for Bogaerts. The shortstop failed to come through, however, grounding out to strand the runners. After the Red Sox managed just a walk in the fourth, Boston had another solid chance in the fifth. There, following a couple of quick outs to start things off, Betts and Benintendi contributed back-to-back base knocks to put runners on the corners with two outs. Once again, it was up to Bogaerts, and once again he failed to come through. This time it was a strikeout, but the result of stranding two runners was the same.
The sixth included yet another potential two-out rally. This time it was Devers and Eduardo Núñez smacking back-to-back singles to put two on with two away for Jackie Bradley Jr. The outfielder did hit it very well, but Comerica Park is very deep and JaCoby Jones was able to track it down with a nice running catch at the wall to end the inning and preserve the shutout.
While all of this was going on, Brian Johnson was giving the Red Sox another solid outing. As always, there was some contact and he did get some help from his defense, but he was also hurt by the group behind him and for the most part Boston’s lefty was able to command his pitches. Obviously the Detroit lineup is not some major test, but Johnson did his job and then some, just unfortunately without the support of his offense.
After Fiers mowed down the top of the Red Sox order, Johnson was able to match him with an easy 1-2-3 inning of his own, but he’d run into trouble in the second. There, with one out, Victor Martinez hit a ground ball to Rafael Devers, who was making his return from the disabled list. The third baseman made the play after taking a step back, but his throw into first base was short and it got by Moreland. Martinez couldn’t advance, but it was a free baserunner. It would prove costly after Jeimer Candelario followed it up with a single and two batters later Jose Iglesias cashed in with a two-out, two-run double. Just like that Detroit had a 2-0 lead.
After that blip of trouble, though, Johnson made sure the Tigers’ lead wouldn’t grow any larger. He had a 1-2-3 third, though that included a spectacular home run robbery from Betts in right field. The fourth did get dicy as Detroit managed to put runners on the corners with just one out, but Johnson got a big strikeout before inducing a grounder to escape the jam unscathed. He’d come back for one more turn in the fifth, coming through with a 1-2-3 inning. That ended his outing as he allowed just the two unearned runs over five innings of work on five hits and five strikeouts without a walk.
With the 2-0 score still holding into the bottom of the sixth, Tyler Thornburg came on for the Sox. The righty struggled. He walked the first batter he faced then allowed a single to Martinez to put runners on the corners with nobody out. That brought Candelario to the plate, and he got a fly ball deep enough out to left field to score Detroit’s third run of the game. After a wild pitch moved Martinez to third base, Thornburg got a ground out to get Boston just one out away from escaping the inning with just one run, but it wouldn’t work out like that. Instead, Iglesias got a fastball middle-in and he smashed it over the wall in left field for a two-run shot and the game was broken open to a 5-0 lead.
In the top of the seventh, the Tigers sent Fiers back out to the mound to face the top of the lineup for a fourth time. He did get a quick first out, but then Betts and Benintendi once again got onto the corners with back-to-back singles with one out, and Detroit turned to the bullpen. Old friend Alex Wilson came on next, and once again Bogaerts squandered a potential rally. This time he hit a grounder fairly well, but Candelario snatched it up to start a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Ryan Brasier came on for the bottom half of the seventh — and he took the bullpen cart in! — and he came through with a 1-2-3 frame. Unfortunately, the Red Sox offense followed that up with a 1-2-3 frame of their own.
After Hector Velazquez tossed another clean inning in the eighth, the Red Sox came up with one more chance for a late rally. They did not take that chance, getting a two-out single but nothing more. Blah.
The Red Sox will look to bounce back from this one and hopefully get the bats going in this series finale. Boston will send Chris Sale to the mound and he’ll take on Blaine Hardy. First pitch is at 1:10 PM ET.