Detroit — What happened at Comerica Park was almost inevitable. The Red Sox are the highest-scoring team in baseball, and they had been limited to a single run in 18 innings against Tigers pitching.
That seemed like an unsustainable trend. And it was.
The Red Sox broke out Sunday, beating the Tigers, 9-1, in the rain-soaked finale of the three-game series. The start of the game was delayed 95 minutes by rain showers.
What was discouraging, though, from manager Ron Gardenhire's point of view, was his team primed the pump for the Red Sox with some sloppy defensive plays.
"We made some bad plays out there," he said. "Like I have said, when you start missing plays, good teams really kill you. That's what happened out there today. We missed too many plays, threw too many pitches and when you do that against a good team like that, you knew they were going to get to you."
The crushing blow was a three-run home run by Jackie Bradley Jr. off reliever Drew VerHagen in a four-run fourth inning. Bradley, who came in hitting .207, had a pair of hits and three RBIs.
Blaine Hardy, who had been working out of the bullpen since June 26, got the start in place of Michael Fulmer, who went on the disabled list Friday with an oblique strain.
Right-handed hitters Steve Pearce and Xander Bogaerts proved to be poison pills for him. They accounted for four of the five hits and all four runs Hardy allowed in three-plus innings.
"I was happy with how I attacked the hitters and got through the top of their lineup, but maybe I should have been worried more about the middle of the lineup," Hardy said. "Pearce and Bogaerts were a pretty good one-two punch and were the sole reason the game ended up the way it did."
Well, maybe not the sole reason.
On Bogaerts' double in the second inning, rookie left fielder Victor Reyes came up looking toward third, then abruptly threw to second instead. Without the hesitation, he would have had a play on Bogaerts. That out might've saved a run.
In the fourth inning, again with Pearce and Bogaerts on second and third, Hardy got Rafael Devers to hit a one-hop grounder to John Hicks at first base. Hicks assumed Pearce would be running from third and threw home immediately, without stepping on first.
Pearce stayed at third and everybody was safe.
"That was just one of those instinct plays," Gardenhire said. "The ball is coming at you and you think he's probably going. Whether anything was communicated out there, I don't know. But he came up throwing without looking.
"We know who Hicksy is. He's our back-up catcher playing first base. You knew you were going to some of these things. He's played well there. That was just a rough play."
Hardy, who was at 55 pitches, gave way to VerHagen with the bases loaded and nobody out.
After Eduardo Nunez knocked in a run with an infield hit off third baseman Jeimer Candelario’s glove, Bradley Jr. followed with an opposite-field home run to left.
"That's baseball," Hardy said. "Not everyone is perfect. Yeah, the defense could have been a little bit better today, but we're young. We're still learning."
Of course, with All-Star Chris Sale on the mound for the Red Sox, such an offensive explosion was overkill. He was dominant.
He pitched six scoreless innings, allowing two hits (single by Reyes, double by Nick Castellanos) with nine strikeouts. It was his first win at Comerica Park for the former White Sox ace since April 18, 2015.
Since June 8, Sale has allowed just five runs and 29 hits in 54 innings (0.72 WHIP). He has fanned 87 in that stretch.
"First of all, he comes at you with an arm slot that nobody else has in the league," catcher James McCann said. "He has plus velocity (97-98 mph), a release point that you aren't used to, not to mention two plus off-speed pitches."
McCann explained what it's like for a right-handed hitter to face Sale's sweeping slider.
"It starts in the other batter's box and manages to get to your back foot," he said. "I can't imagine what it looks like to a left-handed hitter. It must look like it's going to hit you every time.
"He comes right at you. He's a tough match-up."
Candelario, who had two impressive but empty at-bats against Sale, provided the Tigers' lone run, hitting a 401-foot home run off reliever Brandon Workman in the seventh.
"Today was not our day, but we competed against this team in the other two games," Gardenhire said. "We pitched it well, we held them to one run in two games, and we caught the ball. Today was not a good day for us."