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Red Sox 5, Tigers 3: Bullpen problems and too little offense

The Tigers couldn’t hold an early lead, as the lack of length in the bullpen showed up to bite them.

Boston Red Sox v Detroit Tigers Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

An early lead melted away after a good start from Tyler Alexander as the Red Sox came back from a three-run deficit early to win 5-3 on Monday.

Alexander, aka Todd the Painter, did his job on Tuesday, as he usually does. For five innings he took advantage of yet another starting opportunity and blanked a lineup full of top tier right-handed hitters, mixing fastballs, cutters, and really good changeups to keep the Red Sox offense on lockdown. A nice double play turn in the fifth helped him out, but otherwise he had it under control on his own.

Meanwhile, the Tigers offense finally got around to striking early against starter Rich Hill. A three-run third inning was sparked by Spencer Torkelson’s first hit as a Tiger, a double into right-center that briefly got away from a diving Christian Arroyo, the right fielder. Dustin Garneau dumped a soft single into left-center to move Tork to third, and he scored on a Robbie Grossman ground out. The Tigers weren’t down either. Jonathan Schoop lifted a dying quail down the right field line that dropped for a single, scoring Garneau. Javier Báez then torched a line drive right over left fielder Alex Verdugo’s head to the wall. Schoop rumbled all the way around from first to make it 3-0 Tigers.

Alexander took it from there, keeping the Sox down until the sixth inning. We can’t fault AJ Hinch for leaving him in against the bottom of the order the second time through. A weakened Tigers bullpen needed the help, and Alexander had been pretty masterful, though the contact was getting louder as the Red Sox dialed in on the lefty. Also at issue was the fact that after putting up a couple early runs, the Tigers’ offense disappeared.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, complete with a bit of a suspicious call on the field to boot. Catcher Kevin Plawecki singled to open the top of the sixth, and Jonathan Arauz moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. That brought up the top of the order, and this is where you don’t love Alexander facing a confirmed lefty masher for the third time.

Leadoff man Hernandez doubled home Plawecki to put the Sox on the board. Rafael Devers singled to right as well, with Hernandez scoring from second to make it 3-2 Tigers. Alexander finished with 5 13 innings, three runs allowed on five hits, no walks, and four strikeouts.

Hinch turned to Jacob Barnes to attack the heart of the Sox order, and it did not work out. Barnes quickly wild pitched Devers to second, though he did get Xander Bogaerts to pop out. However, with two outs, J.D. Martinez nailed a sinking drive into the right field corner that appeared to land just foul, but was called fair on the field. The Tigers challenged, and fans flipped out on social media over the fact that there was no camera shot down the line, and the long lenses provided no clarity due to the glare on a sunny day in Detroit. The quick dry used on the dirt tends to look a lot like chalk when a ball bounces on it, and there was a bit of a puff of white stuff on impact, but while it still looked foul, the booth didn’t overturn the call. 3-3 tie.

One would think that baseball could catch up to tennis technology from 30 years ago in this regard, but baseball is baseball, and the Tigers still had plenty of chances to hold the Red Sox and win the game. They did not do either of those things.

Barnes got out of the inning at that point, and the Tigers went quietly other than a Jeimer Candelario walk in the bottom half. Somewhere along the way Robbie Grossman may have tweaked something running after three consecutive drives to right field as he was lifted for Victor Reyes. Joe Jimeñez issued a walk but no more in the seventh, and the Sox’ Garrett Whitlock blew away the bottom of the Tigers’ order to send it to the eighth inning still tied up.

And here, once again, the understrength Tigers bullpen failed them. Alex Lange has looked pretty good early this year, but did not have it on Tuesday. He issued a four pitch walk to Hernandez and then wild pitched him over to second to start the top of the eighth. Devers singled to center and advanced to second as Akil Baddoo misplayed it, with Hernandez cruising easily around to score. Lange got Bogaerts to ground one back to him for the first out, then hit J.D. Martinez. Hinch went to Will Vest, who dusted Bobby Dalbec on three pitches, but then surrendered an RBI single off the bat of Arroyo to left. 5-3 Red Sox.

The bullpen was always going to be a bit of an issue until reinforcements arrive, and while the Martinez fair call was suspect, the pitching was not particularly good today, though Lange still looks like he could be a weapon with more consistency. Vest got Verdugo to fly out to left, but the Tigers went down quickly in the bottom half as well.

Jason Foley took the top of the ninth with the Tigers down two. He got a pair of quick outs on Plawecki and Jackie Bradley Jr., but grooved an 0-2 sinker that Hernandez smoked into the right field corner for a double. It didn’t matter, as Rafael Devers grounded out to Schoop, ending the frame and sending the Tigers to the Last Chance Saloon. Whitlock continued to have their number however, as the strength of the Red Sox bullpen carried them through the ninth 1-2-3 to even the series at a game apiece.

They’ll get back at it tomorrow as the Tigers send LHP Eduardo Rodriguez against his old team, and RHP Nathan Eovaldi at 1:10 p.m. ET.