Spencer Torkelson's first major-league homer can't save Tigers in loss to Red Sox
Detroit — A change of Sox, but ultimately the same result for the Tigers.
Eduardo Rodriguez struggled for the second time in as many starts with his new team, this time against his old team, which rocked him for three consecutive doubles in a six-run fourth inning that proved too much for the Tigers to overcome in a 9-7 loss to the Boston Red Sox on a rainy and increasingly chilly Wednesday at Comerica Park.
The Tigers, down early 7-1 and down later 9-2, were able to make a game of it, thanks to a late surge sparked by Spencer Torkelson's first major-league home run — a towering, 396-foot blast to left field in the seventh inning that perked up the water-logged fans who actually saw this thing through to the end. In the eighth, Detroit had five consecutive at-bats with the bases loaded, but couldn't deliver the difference-making blow.
"Proof to me that our guys will stay in the fight," Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. "Certainly wish we would have won one of these two series."
Detroit fell to 2-4 on the young season, losing two of three in back-to-back series against the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. The Tigers head to Kansas City for four games, for their first road trip of the season.
Rodriguez, the veteran lefty signed this offseason to a five-year, $77 million contract, was solid enough in the early going, hurt only by Enrique Hernandez's first homer of the season through three innings.
Through three, he had struck out five. But he walked ex-Tiger J.D. Martinez to start the fourth, Bobby Dalbeck singled, and Christian Arroyo bunted them over (Rodriguez filed and fired to first, never checking third, where he probably had a play). Alex Verdugo then drove in Martinez with a sacrifice fly.
Christian Vasquez followed with a slow roller to third base made even slower by the sloppy infield conditions — "a mess," Hinch described the field. Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario, rushing his throw when he didn't have to, fired way wide left to first base to keep the inning alive. And that proved very, very costly.
What followed was a triple-double — doubles to left from Jackie Bradley Jr. (two runs), Hernandez (one run) and Rafael Devers (one run), the first two which gave left fielder Austin Meadows some troubles.
That was the end of Rodriguez's day, lasting 3 innings in his second start after making it through four in his first. Reliever Rory Garcia was greeted by an RBI single by Trevor Story, making his first appearance in the series. It was the shortstop's first RBI with Boston since signing a six-year, $140 million contract this offseason.
“He was middling a lot and when we got him in the zone, we did damage," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Rodriguez.
That's how Hinch and Rodriguez saw it, too.
"I just lost my command a little bit," Rodriguez said. "They took advantage."
Interestingly, Rodriguez (0-1) saw his ERA go down to 5.87 from 6.75, because only two of the seven runs scored against him were earned. Still, one-plus trip through the Tigers' rotation this season, they've gotten one great start, one OK one, and the rest pretty bad.
Boston tacked on two more against Drew Hutchison in the top of the seventh, Bradley with another RBI double. Boston had six doubles.
The Tigers opened the scoring with a solo homer in the first inning by Jonathan Schoop, his first of the season after hitting 22 a season ago. Akil Baddoo added his first of the season in the fifth inning, a swat to the second row in right after fouling off three consecutive 3-2 pitches.
But, missing three starters in outfielder Robbie Grossman (groin), shortstop Javy Baez (thumb) and DH Miguel Cabrera (scheduled rest day), they did little else off Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-0).
Eovaldi went five innings, allowing four hits. He struck out six and walked one.
Off the Red Sox bullpen, the Tigers clawed back in, starting against lefty Austin Davis. Harold Castro (playing for Baez) singled to lead off the seventh for his second hit of the game (he also had a walk), then Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick in 2020 who picked up his first major-league hit Tuesday, crossed his first major-league homer off the to-do list — he took a few moments to admire the no-doubt blast before breaking into his trot.
"I just wanted to soak in the moment," said Torkelson, who got the ball back for free (but gave the lucky fan a haul of goodies anyway). "I didn't mean to show up the pitcher."
That brought the Tigers within five. Two-out singles by Victor Reyes and Meadows made things a little interesting, but Kutter Crawford, in for Davis, got Schoop to strike out to shut down the Tigers' mild threat, but not their final threat.
Detroit scored again in the eighth on Eric Haase's RBI single, plating Candelario, who led off with a double. A walk to Castro and a single from Torkelson loaded the bases with nobody out, but Cabrera, pinch-hitting for Tucker Barnhart (0-for-3, three K's), struck out swinging on an 80-mph slider from lefty Jake Diekman, just in for Crawford. Baddoo, getting a late lefty-on-lefty opportunity, struck out.
Victor Reyes followed with a sharp RBI single to left to make it a three-run game, before Meadows, already with two more singles on the day, was hit by a pitch to make it 9-7. In came Hansel Robles, Boston's sixth pitcher of the day, to face Schoop, who popped out to second to end the inning.
Detroit then went 1-2-3 in the ninth, off Robles, who got his first save of the season.
That said, the Tigers did finish with season highs in runs and hits (11) and made a game of a game that looked like a laugher for the longest time.
"That," said Hinch, "is the encouraging part."
If there were any other positives for the Tigers, it was that this game actually was played, allowing them to avoid a scheduling headache later in the season.
The teams played through a light but annoyingly persistent rain much of the game, which was never delayed — at least, not by weather. The game started two minutes late after plate umpire CB Bucknor took a Rodriguez warmup pitch off of his neck, and the game was delayed again in the fourth inning when Bucknor was hit by another pitch.
The official paid attendance was 10,522, which if you don't count the last two COVID-affected years, was the Tigers' lowest since May 1, 2006, when 9,597 was the announced crowd.
Of course, a true body count in the seats Wednesday would've been in the hundreds.
That's still a lot of changes of socks.