Wednesday’s series finale in Detroit was, at least at the start, all about Eduardo Rodriguez pitching against his old team. His old team didn’t hold back, springboarding off some bad defense to put up seven runs before Rodriguez was pulled in the middle of the fourth. Combined with a nice outing from Nathan Eovaldi, it looked like the Red Sox had an easy win to get back to .500. Well, they did get back to .500, but the bullpen made things far too interesting before the win was officially in the books.
More robust game notes below.
We have to start with the Eduardo Rodriguez portion of Wednesday’s game in Detroit, not only because he was on the mound when the contest turned but also because it was the biggest story of the day, as noted above. The lefty left Boston this winter for greener (financially, and perhaps otherwise for him) pastures in the AL Central, and for the first time was facing the only team for whom he’d pitched in the majors. Early on, we saw a whole lot of the good with the lefty that we’d seen for most of his career. When he’s confidently working his stuff on the edges of the zone, he gets whiffs and called strikes, and just generally mows lineups down.
And sure enough, Rodriguez retired the side in order in the top half of the first, and then worked around a pair of walks in the second to get out of the inning unscathed. That brought us to the third, with the Tigers up 1-0 at that point (we’ll talk about that in a minute), but Rodriguez couldn’t hold the lead. Instead, after getting Jackie Bradley Jr. looking to lead off the inning, he left a cutter over the plate to Enrique Hernández. A couple days ago, it probably would have been popped up, but Boston’s leadoff man seemed to find his swing midway through Tuesday’s game, and he blasted this mistake over the wall in left field for a solo shot, tying the game at one.
Really, though, it was the next inning that Boston pulled away, at least for the time being, with the Red Sox offense showing what they’re truly capable of (even without Xander Bogaerts, who had a maintenance day off for this game) and Rodriguez unraveling after some bad luck. First, he started the inning with his third walk of the day, and after a base hit the Red Sox caught everyone by surprise by having Christian Arroyo drop down a bunt. With the runners moved up to scoring position, Alex Verdugo hit a fly ball to left plenty deep enough to get a run home, and Boston had a 2-1 lead.
Considering the rain in Detroit on the day, it seemed like the Red Sox were maybe playing for a run in case the skies opened. Except, they didn’t stop there by a long shot. With two outs, Christian Vázquez reached when Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario took his time on a ground ball that was slowed down by a wet infield before throwing it well off the mark.
The error extended the inning, and this is where Rodriguez unraveled. Jackie Bradley Jr. brought two home with a double smacked off the wall in left field, then Hernández smoked a double of his own off the same wall. (Austin Meadows did not look good on either of those plays either, for what it’s worth.) Add on a third straight double, this one into the left field corner from Rafael Devers, and then a Trevor Story bloop single, and Boston knocked Rodriguez out of the game with six runs on the board, and they’d add one more charged to the lefty before the inning ended, though only two of the seven runs were earned.
As I said, the game really turned uninteresting for a bit because, while the offense was doing their thing, so was Boston’s ace Nathan Eovaldi. He did give Detroit the early lead with a mistake in the first when he left a slider middle-in to Jonathan Schoop that was hit for a solo homer out to center field. Later in the game, after the Red Sox outburst in the fourth, he’d also give up a solo homer to Akil Baddoo. Beyond the homers, though, Eovaldi had his full arsenal working, getting through five innings on two runs, striking out five and walking just one. He did need 100 pitches so the efficiency could have been better, but all in all it was a fine day.
After Eovaldi, Matt Barnes got the first call, looking solid for a second straight outing retiring all three batters he faced with a good curveball and a fastball sitting 94-95. You’d like to see the velocity up a tick or two, but he’s trending in the right direction. Meanwhile, the offense did keep adding against the Tigers bullpen as well. Christian Vázquez joined the RBI party with a sacrifice fly in the seventh, and Bradley added his second RBI double of the afternoon later in that same inning to make it a 9-2 game.
Continuing with the Red Sox bullpen, Austin Davis came on for the seventh and he had some trouble. After giving up a leadoff single, he threw a 1-0 fastball up in the zone over the plate to former number one overall pick Spencer Torkelson, who unloaded on it for his first career home run to bring Detroit within five. After Davis then gave up a walk and a single with two outs, Kutter Crawford came in to try and end the inning and make sure this didn’t turn back into a game. He did just that, striking out Schoop to keep the lead at five.
Crawford would then come back out for the eighth, but again there was plenty of early trouble with Jeimer Candelario ripping a leadoff double and quickly being driven in on a bloop down the right field line that fell in for an RBI double to make it a 9-5 game. After Crawford issued a walk and then gave up a base hit, suddenly the Tigers had the bases loaded with nobody out, and this was a game again.
Cora, recognizing the situation, went to the guy who locked up Boston’s first win of the year, Jake Diekman, to nip the rally in the bud. He looked well on his way to doing that after striking out each of the first two batters he faced. However, that was followed up with a base hit to bring Detroit to within three before, on a 3-2 pitch, Diekman hit Austin Meadows, bringing another run home and suddenly making it a 9-7 game, still with the bases full. That forced Cora to turn to Hansel Robles, who fortunately induced a pop up to stop the rally in its tracks.
Following a ninth inning that saw the offense waste a leadoff double, it was up to Robles to come back out and still hold that two-run lead. He did just that with a perfect inning to give the Red Sox the win and get their record to .500 for the first time on the season.
The Red Sox now head back home for the first time this year, taking on the Twins Friday afternoon for the Fenway opener. That one will start at 2:10 PM ET, with Nick Pivetta taking on Joe Ryan.