Boston — For six innings Saturday, a baseball game at Fenway Park essentially belonged to two famed starting pitchers who had done most, if not all, of the heaviest lifting in a 3-3 game.
But the final score, 11-3, with Boston on top, was a statement not only that Red Sox starter Chris Sale had lasted two more innings than his counterpart, Justin Verlander. It was a commentary on two teams’ relief corps.
Daniel Stumpf and Francisco Rodriguez did their part in holding down the Red Sox in the sixth after Verlander’s pitch count, riddled by Red Sox foul balls, had pushed him to 108 tosses through the fifth.
But then came the reserves: Warwick Saupold, a normally trusty new hand who this time was walloped for three runs and four hits in the seventh. And, in the eighth, Arcenio Leon, a recent addition who had a miserable time Saturday, getting socked for four hits and three walks (one intentional) en route to a five-run mishap that turned the game into a Red Sox rout.
Stumpf, at least, might have shown that he can be a helpful left-hander as he pitched to three batters, striking out two and walking one.
He has a fastball that runs 94, as well as a slider that ranks as his out pitch.
He also has that status as a pitcher who is now pitching in Detroit because of baseball’s circuitous ways and regulations.
Stumpf was with the Royals last December when the Tigers snatched him in the Rule 5 draft that always closes baseball’s Winter Meetings.
Stumpf was obliged to make the team in spring camp — or be returned to the Royals. But there was a caveat: Stump had gone the Rule 5 route before and could now sign elsewhere when he didn’t make Detroit’s 25-man active roster and subsequently cleared waivers.
Stump opted for a new shot with the Tigers and an early audition at Triple A Toledo. Saturday night, with his fastball-slider combination whiffing a pair of Red Sox batters, he at least gave a signal he’s serious about finding a home in a bullpen begging for help.
His ticket could be that slider. It had bite and was a pitch Stumpf could throw for strikes.
“It’s something I’ve been working on,” said Stumpf, a 26-year-old Texan who didn’t seem to mind Saturday night that 37,162 were breathing down his neck in an arena known as Fenway Park.
“Obviously, you get some nerves during those first few at-bats up here,” he said. “But I don’t pay attention to the crowd. Ever. I’m just playing catch out there, working with my catcher.”
Justin Upton had a sixth-inning double and now has a nine-game hitting streak rolling (.382, 13-for-34). It’s his longest streak since he had an 11-game string last June.
Jose Iglesias stayed hot, with a single and double, for his fifth multi-hit outing in his last 10 games (.447, 17-for-38). In his last 15 games, Iglesias is batting .404.
Miguel Cabrera got a ground out RBI in the fifth inning and now has 1,581 RBIs — one from tying Al Kaline for 41st place in big-league history.
Ian Kinsler singled twice and drove a leadoff liner to the wall in center field. He’s batting .316 in five games since rejoining the Tigers following his layoff with a tight hamstring.