If you want an example of how wacky small samples can be, look at where the Red Sox stand four games in. It’s not that they’re 1-3. That can happen to literally anyone (the Dodgers lost two of three to the Rockies to start the season, for example). Rather, it’s how they’ve gotten there. The offense has not been the boost that they are expected to be this season, and it’s put extra pressure on a pitching staff loaded with questions. They’ve answered the call more often than not despite the record, but eventually a lack of offense will make you pay. On Monday, Boston didn’t have a baserunner until the fifth, when J.D. Martinez broke up a budding perfect game with a solo home run. That was all the offense the Red Sox got, though, putting them in a position where a two run homer off of Ryan Brasier was enough to turn the game back in Detroit’s favor, and eventually turn it into a 3-1 loss for Boston.
More robust game notes below.
It probably isn’t fair to say the Red Sox offense was asleep their entire time in New York, as they took a few leads and did have some innings in that series in which the lineup looked very much alive. That said, they were the most disappointing portion of that opening weekend, struggling to get hits with runners in scoring position and just generally getting into a habit of letting pitchers off the ropes when they had chances to put them away. After a quick turnaround flying into Detroit in the wee hours and playing a weird 5:00 start time, they definitely looked asleep for the first few innings of this game.
In fact, they had absolutely nothing going against Tigers starter Matt Manning, a young arm with intriguing stuff but historically with some command issues. The Red Sox, however, could not square him up at all through the first four innings, and the first 12 batters they sent to the plate were all retired. There was some good defense behind those four perfect frames, with newcomers Javier Báez and Austin Meadows each robbing Red Sox hitters of hits, but generally it was a lot of weak contact that made the defense’s job early.
Meanwhile, Michael Wacha was making his Red Sox debut, and it looked like it might be an ugly one early on. The righty did get a quick first out, but then after getting bitten by a bloop single, he issued two straight walks to load the bases with just one out. Boston’s pitching walked the tightrope all night on Sunday in their first win of the season, and they were looking to pick up that performance again here on Monday. Wacha didn’t totally avoid the scoreboard in the inning, with a sacrifice fly giving Detroit the early 1-0 lead, but that was all he’d give up to keep the score in reach.
He’d continue to do that, too, while the offense was trying to figure out Manning. Wacha did give up a single to start off the second, but then he found the command with the high fastball paired with the changeup down in the zone or below it, and the Tigers were stymied. After that leadoff base hit, the Red Sox starter retired the next nine batters he faced, with three strikeouts mixed in, to keep the score at 1-0 through four.
Finally, in the fifth, the Red Sox offense broke through, or at least one batter there did. That would be J.D. Martinez, returning to where his breakout first happened in the middle of last decade. Manning offered him a fastball belt-high on the inner half, and Martinez was all over it. The Red Sox DH sent it 413 feet out to the power alley in left field, and with one swing of the bat Boston went from being on the wrong end of a potential perfect game (still early in the game, of course) to tied up at one run apiece.
Manning did retire the next three batters he faced, and then Wacha’s streak of nine straight ended to start the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Tucker Barnhart. He’d only get one more batter, an out, in the game before he was pulled with the Red Sox looking to not overextend some of their veteran starters here early in the year. Overall, it was a successful debut for the righty, and one that I think was better than even the line will show. Coming in to replace him was the lefty Matt Strahm, already making his third appearance of the year, and he looked good again with two quick outs to get out of the fifth with the score still tied.
After Manning came back out for another very quick perfect inning for Detroit, it was Matt Barnes coming out in the sixth for his first appearance of 2022 after dealing with some minor back issues during the Yankees series. He looked pretty good, albeit with his velocity still down at 94 (compared to 96 in 2021). Still, he allowed just a two-out double that should have been a single if not for an ill-advised diving attempt from Jackie Bradley Jr. in right field, and kept the tie in hand.
Boston again failed to score in the seventh, this time with Manning out of the game, bringing on Austin Davis for the bottom half. Like Barnes, he did give up one hit (though a single this time) but was otherwise perfect as Boston’s bullpen continued to defy expectations and keep the opponent off the board. With the score still tied, Davis stayed on in the eighth to face the left-handed Meadows, but after allowing a leadoff single he was lifted for Ryan Brasier.
Unfortunately this is where the bullpen made their mistake, and it didn’t take much time at all. The first batter Brasier came in to face was Báez, who has his plate discipline issues but can obliterate baseballs when he connects. He connects here. Sitting on a fastball up in the zone, he got just that and sent a no-doubt shot out to left field to put Detroit back up front 3-1. Brasier would get one more out, and allow a single, before Phillips Valdez got the call to try and finish out the inning. After giving up a ground rule double to put a pair in scoring position, and in turn giving the Tigers a chance to really break this open, Valdez came back with two straight strikeouts to keep the deficit at two.
But now a sleepy Red Sox offense had only three more outs to double their run total from the previous eight innings. Rafael Devers did give Boston some life with a one-out double, but that was all Boston would muster as they finished out their third loss in four days.
The Red Sox now look to keep alive their shot at winning this series in Detroit on Tuesday. Rich Hill gets the start for Boston while Tyler Alexander goes for the Tigers, with first pitch set for 1:10 PM ET.