The Detroit Tigers had to withstand a ninth inning rally by the Boston Red Sox, holding on to win 8-6. The Tigers have now won two straight after dropping five in a row. The Red Sox's losing skid has reached six games, all coming after a seven game winning steak.
Max Scherzer (W, 7-2) may have allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings, but it was his best looking outing since beating the Red Sox on May 16. Scherzer scattered 11 hits while striking out nine and walking just one.
One again, the bullpen was the story. Or to be more accurate, the closer was the story. Al Alburquerque and Joba Chamberlain had no trouble in their 1 1/3 combined innings,m not allowing a hit. Joe Nathan, on the other hand, had lots of trouble. Given a four run ninth inning lead to protect, Nathan coughed up two runs on four hits and a wild pitch, ultimately putting the tying run on base. Nathan needed 32 stress-filled pitches in what was a non-save situation, turning an easy win into a gut-churning nail biter.
Jon Lester's (L, 6-7) second start this season against the Tigers went about as well as his first - not good. Lester was pulled after 4 1/3 innings, having allowed five runs and 12 hits while not recording a strikeout.
Boston needed four relievers to get through the remaining 3 2/3 innings. Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Andrew Miller all allowed one run, giving the Tigers their winning margin.
Detroit's offense has risen from a long slumber, knocking five Red Sox arms for 16 hits and four walks. Every Detroit starter had at least one base hit and eight Tigers had one RBI each. Miguel Cabrera, Nick Castellanos and Austin Jackson led the way with three hit nights. The rookie filled left side of the infield supplied the power, both Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez homering. Suarez's was also the first hit of his career.
The Red Sox's 15 hit attack was led by Dustin Pedroia's two singles, a home run and two RBI. Daniel Nava also had three hits, and David Ortiz drove in a pair.
The Tigers have fought back from their three week funk, winning two straight thanks to timely offense and solid pitching. Everything has fallen back into place against the Red Sox, save for one important item.
A win is a win is a win. But you have to wonder how much longer the Tigers can keep using Nathan in the ninth inning. The fan base has already turned on the Tigers' closer, boos raining down from all corners of Comerica Park tonight. .
This is become more than just a tired arm or bad luck (even if there was a little tonight). Nathan has been far too hittable, unable to miss bats and lacking the ability to place his pitches where they need to be, especially with decreased velocity.
Brad Ausmus had this to say about his struggling closer:
"Like I said, we need Joe Nathan to be our closer. He’ll work through this. I’m not concerned about him. He’s a professional. He and Jonesy are looking at video, and talking to find any little mechanical flaw that could be the root cause of this. He will get it ironed out. Like I said, we need to get it ironed out."
Nathan must get things "ironed out," and do it damn soon.
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Bottom of one, the Tigers' two top mashers combined to draw first blood.
Two down and Jon Lester on the mound, Miguel Cabrera's line drive found the gap in left center for a two base hit. Victor Martinez fell behind 1-2, worked the count to 3-2, then slapped an outside fastball down the right field line for an RBI double and and a 1-0 lead.
The good at bats continued with Torii Hunter. He fells behind in the count 0-2, worked it back to 2-2 before lining an RBI single to center. Martinez scored without a throw, pushing the Tigers' lead to 2-0.
Once Max Scherzer tossed a shutdown second inning, the Tigers' offense kicked up their heels, creating another scoring opportunity.
Austin Jackson led off the bottom of the second with a single to left center. Bryan Holaday took advantage of Brock Holt playing out of position at first base, pushing a bunt single past Lester. Holt fielded the ball, but lost a foot race to the bag, Holaday narrowly avoiding the tag.
Rajai Davis found more of his runners in scoring position magic when his seeing eye dribbler found the hole in the left side for a two out RBI single and a 3-0 lead.
Two down, Lester pitched carefully to Cabrera, who worked the count full. Ultimately he walked him, loading the bases for Martinez. This time around, Martinez did not come through with runners in scoring position, a lazy fly ball to center ending the threat.
The Tigers only scored one run in the inning, but they were making Lester work. His pitch count was 54 after two frames.
Scherzer was rolling through three, having retired eight straight since Xander Bogaerts singled in the first.
Nick Castellanos made it a 4-0 game in the bottom of the third with a no-doubt solo shot to left, good for his fifth home run of the season.
Top of four, Dustin Pedroia countered Castellanos' home run with one of his own, snapping Scherzer's consecutive out streak at nine. Pedroia's third homer of the season pulled the Red Sox within three at 4-1.
Eugenio Suarez's first big league hit was a very memorable one. Leading off the bottom half of the fourth, Suarez went yard. His first career big league hit was a solo home run into the left field bullpen, increasing the Tigers' lead to 5-1.
Verducci: "I guess that's why he didn't bunt in the 2nd inning ..." DING DING DING!— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 8, 2014
The Red Sox got to Scherzer again the fifth, a double play keeping him out of big trouble.Daniel Nava led off with a single, but was eliminated on Stephen Drew's double play ground ball.
Scherzer then gave up three consecutive hits, giving up a run in the process. David Ross doubled, then scored on Jackie Bradley Jr's single, cutting the Tigers' lead to 5-2. Brock Holt extended the inning, reaching base on an infield single. Two on and still two out, Scherzer pitched out of the jam when Bogaerts became his seventh strikeout victim.
Another scoring opportunity for Detroit ended Lester's night in the bottom half of the fifth. After consecutive one out singles from Castellanos and Jackson (hits 11 and 12 for the Tigers), Red Sox manager John Farrell pulled his starter.
Lefty Craig Breslow took over to face Holaday. The Tigers' backup catcher missed hitting a three run bomb, pulling it a few feet foul. On the very next pitch Holaday bounced into an inning ending double play.
From near-home-run-shot to inning-ending-double-play, just that quickly. Baseball is a cruel mistress.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 8, 2014
Top of six, Scherzer gave up a Pedroia infield single and Nava bloop, bringing Drew to the plate with a runner in scoring position and two out. His soft liner wasn't hit hard, but it found the outfield for an RBI single.
Scherzer finally got the third out when Ross went down swinging. After six full innings, the Tigers lead was down to 5-3.
One out and Suarez on base via a walk, Farrell yanked Breslow and brought in Junichi Tazawa (normally the Red Sox's eighth inning setup man) to face Kinsler. Coming into the at-bat, Kinsler was the only Tiger without a base hit. That changed when the Tigers' second baseman blew up the strategy by ripping a liner to right center, rolling all the way to the scoreboard. By the time Grady Sizemore got the ball into the infield, Saurez had scored and Kinsler was sliding into third.
First pitch swinging, Cabrera recorded his 51st RBI of the season when he slapped a single through a pulled in infield. Martinez ended the inning by bouncing into a double play, but the Tigers had pushed their lead back to four runs, up 7-3.
Scherzer's pitch count was pushing 100, but Brad Ausmus was hoping to get one more inning out of his starter. He sandwiched two outs between a Bradley walk and Pedroia single, bringing up Ortiz.
Phil Coke, who amazing owns the Red Sox DH, was warming up. Brad Ausmus made a visit to the mound, getting a "I want the damn ball" look in return from Scherzer...
Scherzer talked his way into remaining in the game for one more batter. The count 3-1, Ortiz slapped a double to left, plating Bradley and ending Scherzer's night after 6 2/3 innings.
Ausmus had no choice but to get his starter, calling on Al Alburquerque with a pair of runners in scoring position. He needed only three pitches to end the threat, retiring Sizemore on a ground ball.
Bottom of seven, ex-Tiger Andrew Miller took over for Tazawa, and immediately found big trouble. Hunter and Castellanos started the inning with back-to-back singles, Jackson walking on four pitched to load the bases.
Holaday flew out to center, more than deep enough to plate Hunter. The sacrifice fly extended the Tigers' lead to 8-4.
A two out Davis walk would reload the bases. Miller dodged further trouble by striking out Kinsler to strand three and keep the Red Sox within four runs.
Joba Chamberlain pitched a drama-free eighth. He hit the lead off man, then settled in to retire the next three batters.
Top of nine and the Tigers still up four runs, Ausmus elected to go with Joe Nathan in the ninth. Then the fireworks started.
The first two Red Sox batters reached base - Holt with a single to left, Bogaerts reaching on an infield single. Even though the Bogaerts play was of the bang-bang variety, and replay showed the runner may have been out, the Tigers didn't challenge.
Nathan appeared to slip during motion, the resulting wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position. Pedroia took advantage, plating a run with a sacrifice fly to right, the Red Sox cutting the lead to 8-5. At that point, Ian Krol started warming up.
Then Castellanos made a mistake, going into the shift with a runner on second despite time having not been called, Bogaerts took off for third with Nathan on the mound. Bogaerts won the footrace with Nathan to third, yet for some reason Ausmus decided to challenge the play.
It wasn't overturned, and in the end, the play didn't matter. The Tigers remained in the shift, leaving third base empty. Bogaerts would have stolen third anyway.
Ortiz would bounce out, Bogaerts scoring on the play. The Red Sox had cut the Tigers' lead to two runs, but the bases were now empty.
They didn't remain that way.
Two down, Sizemore lifted a fly ball into foul territory, Hunter unable to make the catch near the wall after a long run. Given life, Sizemore bounced a single up the middle, keeping the game alive.
Nava extended the game further with a single to left, the boo-birds out in force for Nathan as the tying run was now on base.
Ausmus refused to bring Krol, despite Drew's inability to hit left-handers. Thank goodness for everyone involved Nathan induced Drew to end the game on a can of corn to Jackson. A needlessly dramatic ninth inning was over.
Yout final score is Tigers 8, Red Sox 6.
That win felt a little bit like a loss. Way more complicated in the 9th than it needed to be. STILL! TWO STRAIGHT!— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 8, 2014
Sunday night's nationally televised series finale has right-hander John Lackey taking the ball for Boston, Anibal Sanchez getting the starting nod for Detroit.
Sanchez has been the Tigers best and most consistent starter as of late. He's also been the unluckiest. Over 15 1/3 innings covering two starts, Sanchez has allowed one run. The Tigers lost both games in the ninth inning, Sanchez stuck with no-decisions.
The Tigers battered Lackey for five runs in 5 1/3 innings on May 17. In three starts since that loss, Lackey has posted a 1.27 ERA in 21 1/3 innings .In his last appearance, Lackey tossed a complete game while giving up only three runs, earning the loss against the Indians.
First pitch at Comerica Park is an ESPN mandated 8:07 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
FOX loves to troll Tigers fans. Every time the Tigers play the Red Sox on FOX, we are going to see the David Ortiz grand slam and the Prince Fielder flop. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Defensive coordinator Matt Martin took over first base coaching duties this weekend. Omar Vizquel is off, attending his son's graduation.
For the second time in three games, there appeared to be outfield communication issues between Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson. Neither player appeared to take charge on Xander Bogaerts' first inning looper to right center, the ball dropping for a single.
STREAKS AND STATS:
Nick Castellanos has started hitting again. On May 29, Castellanos snapped out of a long slump with two hits. Since then, the rookie has hit .458/.500/.583 over his past seven games. Castellanos now has three consecutive three hit games. The only other Tiger to accomplish the feat this season is Miguel Cabrera.
The last Tigers rookie since Castellanos to have three straight three hit games was Rick Peters in 1980 (June 24-27).
Eugenio Suarez's first big league hit (on his third career at bat) was also his big league career home run. Of course, FOX spent that entire inning interviewing A. J. Pierzynski, making the home run an afterthought.
The last Tiger to go yard for his first MLB hit was Wilkin Ramirez on May 20, 2009 against Texas. Suarez is the 23rd player in Tigers history to homer in one of his first 2 big league games.
Bryan Holaday's seventh inning sacrifice fly was the the Tigers' MLB leading 28th of the season.
Joba Chamberlain has not allowed a run in 12 consecutive appearances, covering 10 2/3 innings.
Every Detroit player had at least one hit, and eight Tigers had an RBI. Austin Jackson may have reached base four times, but he was the odd man out, not driving in a run.
Nick Castellanos: Three hits for the third straight game. He's 14-for-28 in his last eight games and 9-for-12 over the last three. Castellanos had bottomed out, hitting a season low of .229/.275/.353 before the hot streak. He ends tonight's game with a far more respectable season slash line of .271/.315/.409.
Austin Jackson: Reached base four times on three singles and a walk. Jackson is 6-for-11 with two walks over his last three games.
Miguel Cabrera: Reached base four times with three hits and a walk, drove in his 51st RBI of 2014.
Eugenio Suarez: Homered in his first career start while making all the plays at short and showing off a rifle for an arm.
Joe Nathan: The Tigers have a burgeoning problem on their hands. Their closer is owed $20 million for two seasons, but is having trouble getting anyone out. Nathan allowed ten runs all of last season. By allowing two more runs tonight, Nathan has given up 18 runs in 23 innings. His ERA is soaring at 7.04
FOX's baseball coverage: It was God awful tonight. Here's a sampling.
Fox: "Welcome to the Tigers vs Red Sox Game, NOW HAVE A WHOLE TRUCKLOAD OF DEREK JETER!"— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 7, 2014
"It’s a tale of two different stories." - Joe Buck @awfulannouncing— Donald Thomas Kelly (@AceRHPDonKelly) June 7, 2014
Buck: "9-time gold glove winner Hunter can catch that one in his hat." Yes, and for much of 2014, we suspect he's been trying exactly that.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 7, 2014
Reynolds says Jackson needs to play more smal ball. Verducci says Jackson is regressing. Jackson rips a solid base hit.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 7, 2014
Buck and Co. yammer on about the Ortiz grand slam, and Nick C. rips a bomb into the seats. Perfect timing. Tigers lead 4-0.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 8, 2014
Reynolds: "I would have challenged - Wally, come on!" He doesn't know that Wally Joyner is just the messenger, does he?— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 8, 2014
Fox: baseball broadcasts for people who are bored by baseball— Donald Thomas Kelly (@AceRHPDonKelly) June 8, 2014
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GAME 57 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Drew Smyly took the PotG with 60% of the vote The Tigers' number five starter was victorious for the first time in a month, allowing just one earned run in six innings of work.