For the first five innings or so of the Red Sox-Tigers game on Tuesday, things continued to look bleak for a Red Sox offense who simply was not playing up to their talent. They were put down in order the first time through the lineup for the second straight game, and were trailing 3-0 as late as the sixth. But finally, the offense broke through, including with Enrique Hernández getting his first hit of 2022. Rafael Devers led the charge with three hits and a pair of RBI, and Boston put up five runs in the final four innings. Combine that with a solid season debut from Rich Hill and a beautiful four-inning stint out of the bullpen from Garrett Whitlock, and you get the second win of the season for Boston.
More robust game notes below.
You’d be forgiven if you turned on NESN this afternoon and thought you were watching a replay of Monday’s loss to Detroit between the strange 1:00 PM ET start time on a Tuesday and, more importantly for our purposes, the performance from the offense. On Monday, the Red Sox bats were shut down by the young Matt Manning, who was perfect through the first four innings before it was broken up by a J.D. Martinez home run. This time, the perfect game didn’t last quite as long, but the early results were just as discouraging.
Facing the left-handed Tyler Alexander, and still without Trevor Story who has been dealing with a bout of food poisoning, Boston’s offense was just totally shut down. It’s not just that they went down in order in each of the first three innings of this game, and that Alexander overall set down each of the first 10 batters he faced. It’s that basically all of the contact they made for those outs were of the lazy variety, not even threatening a hit. There was one hard-hit line drive from Bobby Dalbec that was just plain bad luck with Javier Baéz standing in exactly the right spot, but otherwise it was just just going through the motions.
Over on the other side, Rich Hill was making his 2022 debut back with the Red Sox after a few years away, and he started off looking really good. It’s hard to see a pitcher like Hill succeed in today’s game with a fastball that tops out around 88 mph, but as Alex Speier said on the NESN broadcast, batters thinking about his curveball makes that fastball play up. Sure enough, he got two strikeouts in a perfect first, and retired each of the first seven batters he faced.
But once the eighth batter came up, trouble began, not all related to the pitcher. Spencer Torkelson got his first hit of his career with one out in the third on a fly ball out to right-center field. Christian Arroyo, who got the start in right field, took a bit of a convoluted route to the ball and couldn’t pull it in on a diving attempt, leading to a double. That was followed up by a bloop that found grass in shallow center field before a ground ball brought home the first run for either side on the day.
It looked like the inning should have been over after that on another fly ball to right field, this one a high, weak one down the line. Again, Arroyo took a curved route to the ball and came up short, bringing another run home. To me, the first ball to him was excusable as it would’ve been a tough ball for most anyone. The second one absolutely should have been caught and is another reminder of the team’s poor outfield depth. Ultimately, Detroit would tally one more when Javier Báez hit a rocket of a ball out to left for a double, and it was a 3-0 lead for the Tigers.
Back on offense, the Red Sox did break up the perfect game in the fourth thanks to a 67 mph single from Rafael Devers and an infield single from Xander Bogaerts, but Martinez followed it up with a double play, and any momentum the offense was scrounging up went away. They’d again go down in order in the fifth as well.
Hill’s outing, meanwhile, came to an end in the fifth. The southpaw recorded one out before issuing a walk, at which point Alex Cora turned to Hirokazu Sawamura. Overall, I thought Hill looked good, with his line looking worse than the performance thanks to his outfield. Sawamura then caught a break, inducing a pop up in foul ground to third base that somehow turned into a double play when Robbie Grossman took off on the pitch and did not keep track of the ball.
Finally after that, in the top half of the sixth, the offense broke open at least a little bit. Kevin Plawecki, who got the start behind the plate in this one, started the inning with a base hit through the middle, and after moving up on a bunt he’d come around to score when Enrique Hernández finally got his first hit of the season on a double out to right field, making it a 3-1 game. Devers then followed that up with a base hit into right, and Boston was within one. That moved Detroit to turn to their bullpen, after which Devers quickly moved to second on a wild pitch before coming home and tying the game on a Martinez double.
With a brand new ballgame upon us, Garrett Whitlock got the call out of the bullpen in the sixth for his first appearance since signing his new contract extension. He did issue a walk, but otherwise was perfect in part thanks to a great defensive play in the hole by Jonathan Araúz at second base.
After Whitlock came through with another scoreless inning in the bottom of the seventh, Boston was looking to take the lead in the eighth. Hernández got them off to a good start with a leadoff walk before quickly moving up into scoring position on a wild pitch. Sure enough, Devers followed that up with a base hit through the middle to give Boston a 4-3 lead, and even moved up to second when Detroit center fielder Akil Baddoo fumbled the ball in center. Later in the inning, Arroyo added on an insurance run with an RBI single of his own, and it was a 5-3 Boston lead with six outs to go for their pitching staff.
It was Whitlock getting the call to start that quest, coming out for his third inning of work. He had absolutely no issue at all, needing only six pitches to record all three batters he faced. That put his pitch count in more than a good enough position to allow him to pitch the ninth as well, where he once again was perfect to finish out a masterful four-inning performance and close out a Red Sox victory.
The Red Sox and Tigers now have a rubber match set for Wednesday afternoon starting at 1:00 PM ET with old friend Eduardo Rodriguez taking on Nathan Eovaldi. However, the weather is looking shaky, so it may need to be rescheduled.