Reigning American League Rookie of the Year Award winner Michael Fulmer tossed six scoreless innings, supported by two RBIs from Victor Martinez and a two-run homer by James McCann to put the Tigers in command. But enigmatic setup man Bruce Rondon retired just one of four Red Sox he faced to spark the rally, culminating with Sandoval's opposite-field homer off an 0-2 pitch from Rodriguez.
"Should've made a better pitch than that," Rodriguez said. "I was trying to go up and away, waste a pitch, and then maybe go down the barrel, middle-in, to try to get him to chase. It was a setup pitch that got too much of the plate, and he didn't miss it."
Heath Hembree seemed poised to carry it from there, striking out Nicholas Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera in the bottom of the eighth. But walks to Martinez and Justin Upton set up the rally for pinch-hitter Mahtook, who doubled in a run off lefty Robby Scott. Joe Kelly walked McCann to load the bases but couldn't finish off the rookie Jones, bringing in Upton for the lead and putting Rodriguez in line for the win.
"The four total walks and the base hit [in the eighth] obviously are a difficult thing to swallow after we dramatically come back and take a lead with a big five-run eighth," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "On a day when we're undermanned with so many changes to the roster, our guys did a great job of battling back in this one and putting up a big inning in the eighth, so we've got to regroup and get ready to go tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Panda pounces on K-Rod: Though Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said earlier in the week he didn't want to stretch Rodriguez this early in the season, he turned to his closer for the four-out save opportunity after Alex Wilson struck out Sandy Leon. Sandoval took a first-pitch changeup for a strike, swung and missed at a fastball, but got enough of the 0-2 offering just off the plate to send it out to left. It was Sandoval's first home run since Aug. 15, 2015.
"I know that I know him, so I just try to get a pitch to hit," Sandoval said. "I know he's got a good pitch, a good breaking ball, so I just tried to get a good pitch, him elevate the ball, to get a good swing."
Rookie comes through: Plate discipline was supposed to be the weakness that kept Jones at Triple-A Toledo to begin the season, but he showed enough in Spring Training to earn the Tigers' trust, and now has two big two-strike at-bats in his opening week. This time, he fought out of a 2-2 changeup, fouled off a full-count changeup, then declined to chase a slider up and out of the zone.
"He did a very good job of calming himself, not chasing out of the zone," Ausmus said. "He was able to control the emotions and slow the game down, and that's what you worry about with young guys."
"If you had that table right there, 10 feet long, and I asked you to walk across it, you'd have no problem doing it. If I put that table a thousand feet in the air and asked you to walk across it, it might be an issue. And that's what you have to be able to do when you're a closer." -- Ausmus on the idea that the ninth inning is different than other relief situations
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
A couple of interesting nuggets on the Sandoval homer: It was just the second home run K-Rod has allowed on an 0-2 pitch. The other one was to Tony Batista on July 18, 2003. Last season, opponents hit just .162 off Rodriguez's changeup.
JBJ's latest glove work
Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. has made a standout defensive play in the first three games of the season. The latest was on Friday, when he glided to the gap in right-center to take extra bases from Ian Kinsler.
Statcast™ rated it a 4-star catch, with a catch probability of 46 percent. Bradley covered 66 feet in 4.1 seconds and his route was nearly perfect, as the distance he covered was just a foot more than the distance needed.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox:Eduardo Rodriguez will make his 2017 debut in Saturday's 1:10 p.m. ET game against the Tigers, two days after his start against the Pirates was rained out. The lefty will try to build off the momentum he established since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket in the second half of last season. Boston hopes to get Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez back after the key hitters missed Friday's game due to the flu that has been working through the clubhouse.
Tigers:Jordan Zimmermann, having been pushed back by rain and food poisoning this week, makes his first start of what he hopes is a bounceback season Saturday when he faces the Red Sox. Zimmermann ruled April last year, with a 5-0 record and 0.55 ERA.