After getting thoroughly embarrassed in London, the Red Sox needed to come back to North America and take care of business against a pair of bad teams in their final six games before the All-Star break. Ideally, that would have meant six wins in a row, but that’s a tough expectation to put on any team regardless of competition. However, five out of six wins seemed within reach if this team was to be as good as they should be. They just needed a win on Sunday to pull that off, and that’s exactly what they did. David Price wasn’t perfect and battled some efficiency issues, but he largely kept Detroit off the board. The offense, meanwhile, didn’t quite explode but got a homer from Christian Vázquez and six runs overall. Ryan Brasier did struggle in the bullpen to make it a little uncomfortable late, but Josh Taylor was great before that and Brandon Workman successfully finished things off to complete the sweep. They head to the break happy.
While the Red Sox have been winning baseball games this week after getting back to North America, it has largely been in spite of, rather than due to, the pitching. The starting pitching in particular has been disappointing, causing the team to rely too heavily on a bullpen that, well, you know that story already. On Sunday, in the team’s final game of the “first half,” the offense didn’t get off to the explosive start that had become so common of late. Instead, it was on David Price to keep things close and give his team a chance to get the lead and hold on.
The veteran lefty, on the one hand, has been the top starter on this Red Sox roster all year. In fact, it hasn’t been particularly close. He is coming off a bit of a shaky start, not so much in terms of result as he only allowed two runs. He was, however, uncharacteristically shaky with the control. Said control wasn’t quite as much of an issue in this game, but overall efficiency and effectiveness weren’t totally there for Price on Sunday even though he got solid results while he was in the game.
That said, things got off to a very shaky start in this game after his team failed to score in the top of the first. Price quickly handed the Tigers the lead after walking the leadoff man. That almost always seems to lead to trouble, and that was the case here as Nicholas Castellanos came to the plate as the second batter in the lineup. He put a line drive down the left field line that took a strange bounce, allowing the run to easily come around and score from first. Two batters into the bottom of the first, Detroit had a 1-0 lead.
The good news is that things got better for Price after that. He struck out Miguel Cabrera in the next at bat, and Detroit’s future Hall of Famer actually ended up getting ejected between innings after disagreeing with the strike three call. Price’d get two more consecutive outs to end the inning. That was followed up with a 1-2-3 second and a third that featured just a single.
Price found himself in his next bit of trouble in the fourth when he, again, walked the first batter he saw. Fortunately, this one wasn’t followed up with an RBI double. Instead, Price got a couple of quick outs before allowing another base hit to put two on with two outs. He got a big fly out in that spot, though, and Detroit was still limited to just the one run. The southpaw then worked around a leadoff double in the fifth to keep the strong run going. However, he was also up to 99 pitches on the afternoon and that fifth inning ended his day. You’d like more length, but ultimately he allowed only the one run on six strikeouts, two walks and four hits.
So, the Red Sox got what they needed, albeit in a relatively short outing, from their starting pitcher and it was up to the offense to score against Gregory Soto and company. As I said above, they somewhat surprisingly went down in order in the top half of the first. After falling behind in the bottom of the inning, though, they came back with the lumber in the second. J.D. Martinez started that inning off with a base hit, and a couple of batters later Christian Vázquez came to the plate. The catcher would fall down 0-2, but then he got a hanging slider right over the heart of the plate and he didn’t miss it. Vázquez sent it out the other way for his 14th homer of the year, giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
That was the way the score would remain until we got to the top of the fifth after the Sox had gone down in order for two straight innings. Marco Hernandez got them back rolling with a one-out single and quickly followed that up with a stolen base. After Mookie Betts drew a walk and Rafael Devers struck out, Xander Bogaerts was up in a big spot with two on and two out. As he has so often this year the shortstop and American League All-Star came through. This time he hit a double out to left field, getting both runs home and making it 4-1. Detroit then intentionally walked Martinez to get to Andrew Benintendi, and the latter made them pay with an RBI single. After the dust had settled, it was a four-run lead for the Red Sox.
So, heading into the sixth it was up to the bullpen to get twelve more outs and finish this game off. Josh Taylor was the first to get the call, and he tossed an easy 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts. The lefty came back out for the seventh, too, and got two more strikeouts in another perfect inning.
After the Red Sox added another run thanks to a Martinez double and an eventual wild pitch that brought him to the plate, Ryan Brasier was on with Boston up 6-1 in the eighth. The righty issued a leadoff walk but then came back with back-to-back strikeouts. It appeared he was going to get out of the inning, but Brandon Dixon had other ideas. Detroit’s first baseman worked a full count, then put a middle-middle slider just over the wall in left field for a two-run shot. Suddenly, it was just a three-run game. Brasier then walked the next batter he faced, ending his day.
Brandon Workman then came on and quickly finished the inning with a ground out. In the ninth, it was Heath Hembree trying to finish off the three-run game. He did give up a one-out single, but that was all as he shut the door on the game, the sweep and the first half.
The Red Sox are now off for four days before getting back to action on Friday. They’ll face the Dodgers in that one in a World Series rematch. Eduardo Rodriguez will got for Boston in Game One while Los Angeles hasn’t announced their starter. In the meantime, Monday is the Home Run Derby and Tuesday is the All-Star Game itself.