It took seven-plus innings but the Red Sox offense finally broke through last night. Jackie Bradley Jr.’s two-run homer in the eighth inning broke a 3-3 tie and Boston came back from down 3-2 to win the series opener with Detroit.
Brian Johnson was hit hard in a little more than four innings but he minimized damage the the Boston bullpen was terrific in relief. The win snaps Boston’s two-game losing streak and generates some momentum heading into the weekend when the Sox turn the rotation over again to Chris Sale at the top.
Justin Verlander takes his turn in the rotation for Detroit tonight. His numbers look similar to his down season in 2014 when he gave up a bunch of baserunners and posted a 4.54 ERA. The ERA this year is 4.63 and while he isn’t giving up quite as many hits as he did three seasons ago, he’s making up for it with walks.
Verlander has 33 walks in 70 innings, the second-highest total in the American League. I just don’t think Boston’s lineup scares anybody and Verlander will attack with the fastball, without fear of home run threats, which should help his walk rate, for at least a night.
Mookie Betts is the guy he has to get out. Pedroia and Bogaerts are good hitters but they’re not nearly as dangerous hitting with the bases empty and Mitch Moreland behind them. But when Betts is on, they can be pesky.
The good news for Verlander is that Betts is 0-for-12 against him in his career, though I don’t really know how. Mookie can hit a fastball as well as anybody in baseball and that’s Verlander’s best pitch. Whatever he has done to keep him off balance over the last two seasons, he ought to continue.
He also has an extra day of rest because of a bum hammy that even cut his last start short. Perhaps his well-rested arm will generate a little extra life on his fastball tonight.
Chris Sale hasn’t been quite as dominant as he was to start the season. He didn’t give up more than two runs in any of his first half dozen starts and has given up more than two in five of the six since. The strikeout are there; the low walk rate is there; a few more balls have found holes for hits, which might be nothing more than a BABIP problem.
The only real concern going into tonight’s start is the career success of some of the Tigers against a guy they’ve seen a lot in the AL Central. Victor Martinez (21-for-49 with 3 home runs), JD Martinez (9-for-35 with 3 home runs), Ian Kinsler (12-for-45 with 3 home runs) and Miguel Cabrera (14-for-49 with 4 home runs) have all had success against Sale in their careers.
I’m still taking the under on a Tigers’ team total of 3.5 and I’m not going over 4.5 for Boston. The game at 9.0 is an easy decision.
Free Pick: Under 9.0 (-110)