Red Sox rely on long balls to snap skid

Martinez solo shot ends 2-for-25 slump; Hernández and Duran go back to back

August 5th, 2021

DETROIT -- It’s no secret that Boston has fallen victim to some bad breaks on offense lately. Potential extra-base knocks curving just foul, barreled balls going directly at defenders -- even hard hits away from defenders who make astounding plays anyway -- take your pick, the Red Sox have sloughed through it and come back for more.

“Ever since we went to Oakland,” manager Alex Cora said during Wednesday’s pregame Zoom session with media, “we haven’t been able to be who we are.

“There’s a combination of a lot of stuff, but at the same time, we know we can hit, we know we have guys who are capable of [hitting], and right now, we’ve just got to find a way to grind through it until we find it again.”

To Boston’s credit, through every one of its five consecutive losses, the Red Sox kept swinging. The tide finally turned on Wednesday, when Boston snapped its slump with a 4-1 win against the Tigers at Comerica Park.

Cora has not been shy in sharing that his team needs to pick it up at the plate. The starting pitching has been neither great nor terrible, but without the runs to back the arms, the Red Sox were destined to fall again and again. In Detroit, though, everything played out just the way Boston had scripted.

J.D. Martinez struck first, clubbing a leadoff home run in the second inning to get the Red Sox on the board. Martinez entered the series 2-for-25 in his previous six games. The long ball was Martinez’s first at Comerica Park since the Tigers traded him to the D-backs on July 18, 2017.

Alex Verdugo -- who had smashed the ball anywhere a glove was waiting lately and was visibly frustrated about it -- finally got his break, as well, driving a ball to the wall and just out of right fielder Robbie Grossman's reach for a double in the sixth inning. While Verdugo didn’t go deep, no one wore a bigger smile than the 25-year-old who’d hit just .167 across his past seven games.

Verdugo added a hard-hit single against the shift in the eighth inning for his first multihit game since July 26.

“We didn’t do much [1-for-11 in the game] with men in scoring position,” Cora said. “But at least it was the beginning of something that we’ve been talking about. The goal for tomorrow is to do the same thing. Come out, grind, put [together] good at-bats and keep getting better.”

A three-run fifth inning was powered by back-to-back homers from Enrique Hernández and Jarren Duran. Hernández’s two-run shot marked his 15th of the season; Duran’s was career homer No. 2, and Hernández added a triple in the seventh to punctuate Boston’s 10th hit of the night.

Of course, all of that would have been meaningless without a strong outing from Eduardo Rodriguez, who struck out 10 for the eighth time in his career en route to a scoreless five-inning, two-hit outing. After a migraine-shortened outing at New York and a dismal affair against Toronto during which he lacked fastball command, Wednesday was also Rodriguez’s turn to be rewarded for sticking with it.

“This was a huge win that we needed,” Rodriguez said. “That we won the game, and that I was able to go five innings after the last two starts that I had.”

In the immediate glow of the decisive win in Detroit, it’s hard to remember exactly why anyone thought things were really that bad for Boston to begin with. Just five teams in baseball -- the Rays, Astros, Brewers, Giants and Dodgers -- have more wins than Boston (64-45).

Sure, Boston’s victory over the Tigers was just one step back in the right direction -- and the Red Sox still trail the American League East-leading Rays by one game -- but perhaps it also served as a reminder of how quickly things can turn around during a long season.

"We've been saying all year, we're a good team,” Hernández said. “We're going to go through rough stretches, we're going to go through good stretches; that's what happens when you play 162 games.

“Now, it's a matter of staying the course and winning ballgames."