By Ian Browne and Deesha Thosar
MLB.com |@IanMBrowne |
BOSTON -- Justin Verlander continued his recent run of dominance, silencing the dangerous Red Sox and leading his Tigers to a 4-2 victory in Monday night's opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park.
Pitching in front of Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski -- who signed Verlander to a seven-year, $180 million contract three years ago -- the righty allowed five hits and a run over six innings. In five July starts, Verlander is 3-0 with a 1.60 ERA.
Jose Iglesias, one of five ex-Red Sox on the Tigers, haunted his former team by drilling a two-run homer down the line in left in the sixth to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
The loss dropped the Red Sox 2 1/2 games behind the Orioles in the American League East. The Tigers are 5 1/2 behind the Indians in the Central.
Aside from the misfire to Iglesias, lefty Drew Pomeranz was on his game in his second start for Boston, holding Detroit to four hits and two runs while striking out seven. Pomeranz, who had a tough debut at Fenway on Wednesday, kept the Tigers off balance for most of his performance. Of his 99 pitches, 64 were strikes.
"It was nice to get back in that five-day routine, get on a schedule somewhat and kind of fall back into what I've been doing all year," said Pomeranz. "I felt a little more comfortable, talking with [catcher] Sandy [Leon] in that time. That's an adjustment sometimes to a new catcher and learning how to approach it in a different league, scouting reports and everything, I think we settled in pretty good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Two-run moonshot: In the sixth with the Tigers trailing 1-0, Iglesias hit a two-run homer Statcast™ tracked at 424 feet. It was Iglesias' fourth blast of the season and first of his career at Fenway. He added a sharp forceout from short in the bottom of the inning, grabbing a chopped grounder from Hanley Ramirez before throwing Xander Bogaerts out at second.
"I don't know if he has a little extra focus because it was the team that traded him," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "As a player that's been traded, I think you tend to have a little more urgency when you're playing against the team that traded you. That was probably as good a ball as we've seen him hit." More >
Red Sox can't cash in: In the eighth, down by three runs, the Red Sox had a golden opportunity, loading the bases with nobody out against lefty reliever Justin Wilson. Bryce Brentz pinch-hit for Travis Shaw and struck out. Sandy Leon did get one run home with an RBI single to center. With two outs, the Tigers went to closer Francisco Rodriguez, and he got Mookie Betts on a fielder's choice grounder to short. For the game, Boston was 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base.
Four-out save: As Wilson got himself into and almost out of a jam, Ausmus called on Rodriguez for the four-out save. He got through the heart of Boston's order in Dustin Pedroia, Bogaerts and David Ortiz smoothly, despite a tedious nine-pitch at-bat to Bogaerts before he grounded out to short. Ausmus said he prefers not to go to Rodriguez in four-out situations, but believed he was the guy to go to in a bases-loaded situation.
"We come off a day [Sunday], we had two walk-offs against us," Ausmus said. "We hadn't swung the bat great last few days. We got some hits, managed four runs [today] and I just felt like we had to nail this one down. K-Rod hadn't pitched in a while. I knew he could pitch, get four outs hopefully and still be available to pitch [Tuesday]."
Kelly makes relief debut:Joe Kelly's first relief outing in a Red Sox uniform came with mixed results. Justin Upton led off the seventh by nailing Kelly's 101-mph heater to the gap in right-center for a triple. The righty settled down from there, but did allow an RBI single to James McCann.
"He was powerful," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "A lot of power, a lot of velocity, some inconsistent command to get behind in the count 2-1 to Upton, but a fastball out over the plate, he's able to drive one the other way. Still, for the first look, he threw enough strikes. I thought he threw breaking ball for strikes on occasion."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pedroia has reached base in 28 straight games, tied with Jayson Werth for the longest streak in the Majors. Pedroia has a .316 average and a .405 on-base percentage over that span.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: Right-hander Mike Pelfrey (3-9, 4.78 ERA) is set to make his 20th start Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Pelfrey picked up his third win Thursday at Chicago, throwing 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball.
Red Sox: Knuckleballer Steven Wright aims for his fifth win in as many starts Tuesday against the Tigers. The righty is 7-1 in 10 starts at Fenway this season.