DETROIT – The Red Sox are far from pressing the panic button after losing seven of their last eight games, but change is almost certainly on the horizon.
“I’m not saying we don’t try,” said manager Alex Cora. “We’re probably trying harder, and that’s why it’s not happening. It’s just that we’re not playing good baseball right now. “
A game after a solid win in Detroit equalized the series, Boston starter Martín Pérez was hit hard early and the offense failed to save him on Thursday in an 8-1 defeat against the Tigers at Comerica Park.
The bad news is that Pérez’s appearance hasn’t exactly been an anomaly in Boston’s starting line-up lately. The good news is that the Auxiliary Corps has largely held its own, despite entering service much earlier and more frequently than anyone would like, and Phillips Valdez was no exception in the series finale.
Pérez’s problems were already evident when Valdez began to warm up after allowing a home run to start the game, followed by a triple to lead the second inning and five well-hit hits his first time by the line-up. Pérez was given the chance to erect his own ship, but the left-handed followed with a sack fly and a pair of singles that resulted in the Tigers taking a 2-0 lead. When Pérez met Robbie Grossman with an escaped cutter on the upper arm, Cora Valdez signaled.
“Sometimes when you have a good group like the one we have right now, that’s good [thing] happen … [so we can] wake up and do what we did at the beginning of the season, ”said Pérez, who has allowed three or more runs in each of his last five starts. “We’ll be fine.”
Valdez stepped in and responded with 2 2/3 perfect frames, his second longest game of the season, to give the hosts some momentum. As hard as the Tigers hit Pérez – the average exit speed of the struck balls in the game was 96.7 mph – they couldn’t quite figure out Valdez, who counted five groundouts, one popout and two punchouts.
If ever there was a time for the Red Sox to rise, it was while Pérez was on the threshold. However, Boston’s dismal track with runners in the scoring position continued to plague the club as the Red Sox squandered their best chance after placing the runners in second and third place while one was in fourth place. Boston finished the three-game series 3-for-25 with runners in the scoring position.
“We have a lot of people who have problems. As a group, however, I think that it starts with our field selection, ”said hit coach Tim Hyers. “We are a team that is aggressive. We’re swinging the bats, and I think it’s been catching up with us a little lately as the zone expands. The chase percentage has obviously increased; We just have to bring the ball back over the plate, grind out the clubs, count and make our playing field vibrate. “
In a perfect world, Boston’s bullpen phone would never ring in the second inning. In fact, Cora has said more than once that he would be happy if his starters gave him five strong frames, but that hasn’t been the case too often lately either.
With Boston’s No. 6 prospectus Tanner Houck, who will compete in Game 2 of the straight doubleheaders in Toronto on Saturday and Chris Sales’s return imminent, it’s worth asking if the Red Sox are shaking up the rotation and ricocheting Pérez or Garrett Richards want – or both – in the bullpen. Both men are career starters, with only 75 appearances between them in 415 career games, but neither pitcher did much to his Detroit fall. in the second inning of the final.
Is that the shock that Boston needs to get going again? Cora confirmed that Richards will be making his next scheduled start on Sunday and that there are no plans to change rotation in the works, but sale pitching on his final rehab outing on Saturday should force the issue.
“We want to pitch better, we want to play a better defense and we want to be better offensive,” said Cora. “And right now, I think we’re struggling in all aspects of the game, so … we have to turn the page.”