Double whammy: Tigers can't hold lead, lose Robbie Grossman in loss to Red Sox
Detroit — The Tigers took a double gut punch Tuesday.
Not only did they blow a three-run lead in a 5-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park, they may also have lost the services of leadoff hitter Robbie Grossman, who left the game in the seventh inning.
"Right groin tightness is what he reported," manager AJ Hinch said. "We fear it's a little more of a strain, which would lead to more of an issue."
Grossman felt his groin tighten in the fifth inning when he was doubled off first base on an infield pop-up. He was running on the pitch and slid into second, not knowing where the ball was. He scrambled to get back but was thrown out by several steps.
"Just a late look," Hinch said. "But that was the play he reported a little tightness. He went back out for defense but when he came back in he went right to Doug (Teter, head athletic trainer)."
Grossman was sent to hospital for tests. If he has to go on the injured list, the Tigers could call up either Willi Castro or Daz Cameron from Triple-A Toledo. The Mud Hens played in Iowa Tuesday night.
As for the loss, it was validation of Hinch's biggest concern. He said before the series that he'd be well aware of where Rafael Devers was at all times, but especially late in the game.
Meaning, he wasn't going to let Devers beat him if he could in any way avoid it.
He couldn't avoid it Tuesday.
The All-Star third baseman had three hits, including an RBI single in the eighth inning that broke a 3-3 tie. Earlier, Devers helped ruin a superb start by Tigers lefty Tyler Alexander, ripping an RBI single in a three-run sixth.
"If I could go back, I would execute better in that sixth inning," said Alexander, who had blanked the Red Sox on two hits through five. "It went from being a really good day to an all right day."
With the game tied at 3 in the top of the eighth, Hinch called on right-hander Alex Lange to face the top of the order. Lange pitched a scoreless inning Monday, but never found his control in this one.
"He was a little erratic, unlike he was 24 hours ago," Hinch said. "Shows you the ups and downs of relievers at this level. He just looked a little out of sorts and they capitalized."
Lange walked Kike Hernandez to start the rally, threw a wild pitch and then allowed the run-scoring single by Devers.
With one out, Lange drilled former Tiger J.D. Martinez with a 95-mph fastball, which ended his outing. He threw more balls (eight) than strikes (seven).
Right-hander Will Vest entered and allowed a two-out, run-scoring single to Christian Arroyo. With Boston reliever Garrett Whitlock locking down the Tigers' offense, yielding only a walk over the last four innings — the damage was fatal.
The other part of this story was 42-year-old Rich Hill, the lefty craftsman from the University of Michigan who is beginning his 18th season in the big leagues. But for one flurry, he had the Tigers hitters befuddled with his array of speeds (slow, slower, slowest), spin, arm angles and tempo changes.
"He just lives out of the strike zone," left fielder Eric Haase said. "You kind of know what you're going to get, but he just finds a way to miss the barrel. Little bit of deception, little bit of funk, he messes with your timing."
Hill didn't throw a pitch firmer than 89 mph. He threw five pitches under 70 mph — none of them eephus pitches. He splintered Akil Baddoo’s bat in the third inning with a 66-mph curveball, then struck him out with an 88-mph fastball on the next pitch.
"You just have to have patience and let him come to you," said Baddoo, who finally got Hill for a double in the fourth inning, his first hit of the season. "You tend to press against him and that's playing right into what he wants you to do."
Hill got 11 called strikes with his 88-mph fastball and another nine with his 72-mph curveball.
"If you are going to pitch into your 40s, you're going to know what you are doing," Hinch said. "He can change angles, change speeds, tempo, he quick-pitched us a bit. He pitches above the zone, right at the line where you get strike-ball. If you are late at all it's an infield pop-up.
"He had us in the proverbial rocking chair, just back and forth."
All the Tigers' offense came in one burst in the third inning, ignited by rookie Spencer Torkelson's first big-league hit — a double.
"I was yelling at the ball, 'Get down, get down,'" said Torkelson, who was 0-for-10 with seven strikeouts before the hit. "It felt good."
Torkelson ultimately scored on a ground out by Grossman. Jonathan Schoop singled home a run and Javy Baez hit a low missile (110.8 mph off the bat) that sizzled over the head of left fielder Alex Verdugo. The RBI double was the hardest hit base hit by a Tiger this season.