Boston — Whatever happened Wednesday night, good or bad, Blaine Hardy was going to have to wear it.
The Tigers, without any available long relievers in the bullpen after using both Drew VerHagen and Artie Lewicki in spot starts, and Warwick Saupold threw 35 pitches Tuesday, needed to get six innings out of Hardy. Minimum. Regardless.
So there was nobody warming up in the bullpen in the third inning when the first five hitters reached and four runs scored. There was nobody up when Andrew Benintendi blasted the second pitch of the fifth inning 405 feet into the Red Sox bullpen and Xander Bogaerts followed with a single.
To his credit, Hardy kept battling. He soldiered on and got through six innings — the only win of the night for the Tigers, who were beaten by the Red Sox for the second straight game, 7-1.
"He hung in," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He knew what was going on. But we have to back them up, too. We have to score. If we can score, we can maybe take some pressure off these pitchers. That might help, too.
The Tigers have scored one run 18 innings in Boston.
"That's why they have one of the best records in baseball, because they have the whole package," Gardenhire said. "Even with some injuries, this is a really good baseball team and you can't make mistakes against them."
Hardy had allowed two runs or less in his four previous starts. And as potent as the Red Sox offense is, they haven’t done much damage against left-handed pitching, ranking 10th in the American League in average (.239) and last in slugging (.375) and OPS (.675).
He got the first six batters in order. The first inning ended with JaCoby Jones throwing out J.D. Martinez at second on a ball that banged off the Green Monster in left field. But things went crooked in the third.
"That's a really good hitting team and that third caught up to me really quick," Hardy said. "They put some good swings on some good pitches. I was happy with my command. I was happy with my pitch selection.
"It just didn't go my way in that third inning."
Rafael Devers started it with an infield single. Christian Vazquez doubled in the first run. Hardy hit Jackie Bradley, Jr., square in the back, then gave up RBI doubles to Benintendi and Bogaerts.
There were no outs at that point, but Hardy regrouped and got three ground ball outs to end the inning.
"That's the thing; the third caught up to me, but after that it was pretty much smooth sailing," Hardy said. "I got a ground ball double-play (in the fifth) that helped lengthen my outing, but for the most part, take away the third and I could have gone deeper."
Benintendi’s home run was the last of the damage Hardy incurred. He went six full innings, allowing the five runs on eight hits. And when the Tigers loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, James McCann walked to the plate as the tying run.
It wasn’t a quality start for Hardy, but it was an important one.
But, as Gardenhire said, there was no push-back from the Tigers' offense.
JaCoby Jones was an exception to that. He had a pair of hits off Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez and scored the lone Tigers' run. In the second inning, he did something that is very hard to do at Fenway Park — he hit a triple into the short corner in left field.
"I don't think I've ever seen that," Gardenhire said. "A roller over the bag. JaCoby can fly, yes, but I've never seen that. It was pretty amazing."
Left fielder Martinez was shaded toward left center and was slow to retrieve the ball. He didn’t bobble it but had no shot at throwing out the speedy Jones at third. Jones scored on a single by Jose Iglesias.
The Tigers loaded the bases in the sixth inning and the seventh without scoring.
A strange occurrence in the Tigers' half of the seventh inning:. Red Sox fans, seemingly in unison, turned on their cell phone flashlights, as happens during a concert.
It created an almost strobe-like effect around the stadium, but most distracting were flashes in center field.
"Have you ever tried to hit with lights like that in your face," Gardenhire said. "That's not supposed to happen and the umpire should have, in my opinion, stopped it right away."
Niko Goodrum struck out with the lights flashing. With Nick Castellanos stepping in to hit, Miguel Cabrera and Gardenhire started yelling at home plate umpire Mike DiMuro.
"I was digging in and heard Miggy yelling in the dugout," Castellanos said. "He was telling me to tell the umpire to make it stop. And it was handled from there."
Gardenhire came out, pleaded his case and an announcement was made. The flashes, at least those in center field subsided.
"The fans are just having fun, I get it," Gardenhire said. "But when it's in dead center field, the hitter is looking right into it. It's very dangerous. These fans have a ball here and it's a great ballpark. Still, that's dangerous when you are standing in that box and they are flashing lights."
Castellanos and Cabrera singled, and Victor Martinez walked with two outs in that seventh inning. Reliever Ricky Barnes, throwing 96-mph heat, got out of the inning, getting McCann to hit a hard ground ball to shortstop after a seven-pitch battle.
Buck Farmer took over in the seventh. Vazquez, who came in hitting .188, hit his first pitch over the Monster, his second homer of the season. Vasquez was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.