BOSTON -- A day off for Franchy Cordero? That was the original plan. Instead, it turned into a breakout day for the slumping left fielder.
The Red Sox were nearly at the end of the line with position players when Kiké Hernández came up limping with right hamstring tightness after an RBI single to lead off the bottom of the first.
Enter Cordero, who sprung off the bench and contributed heavily to the Red Sox's 12-9 win over the Tigers on Thursday afternoon at Fenway Park.
With three hits -- including an RBI double -- and a key shoestring catch in left, Cordero's imprint was all over this game. He also scored three times.
"Good to see him smile, contribute," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "He made a nice play in left field, too. It's not easy. Hitting at this level is not easy. People think that he's not putting [in the] work, but he's been putting [in the] work and he was aggressive right away. I think that gave him confidence."
It was Cordero who came up with the game tied with two outs in the eighth. Behind in the count 1-2 and facing a lefty in Gregory Soto, Cordero avoided a strikeout and got the bat on the ball for a squibber down the third-base line that turned into an error by Jeimer Candelario as the go-ahead scored.
At that juncture of the game, it was significant that Cordero made contact when you consider he has 27 strikeouts in 64 at-bats this season and is a career .187 hitter against lefties.
"He got the hits and he made contact when it matters at the end," said Cora. "He hustles all the time, which is great. He put pressure on their defense and we were able to score."
"I was ready," said Vázquez. "In the cage, I was watching all videos from when I faced [Alex Lange] the first night. He threw me a couple of changeups, but that pitch was way in. And [I] kept it fair, so it was a good hit there."
As for Cordero, his breakout couldn't have happened at a better time. Cordero had been in an 0-for-25 slump stretching back to April 19, which has led to speculation that he could soon be optioned to Triple-A if his performance didn't improve.
When the day started, Cordero was hitting .153 with a .393 OPS. After the series finale, those were up to .188 and .470.
Cordero credits his teammates and coaches for keeping his confidence intact. And that included some comforting words from a former Red Sox captain who won two World Series championships as a player.
"I was working hard with the coaches, spoke to a lot of the guys," said Cordero. "A lot of my teammates came up to me and would try to give me some advice as well. Coaches such as [Jason] Varitek, he came up to me and spoke to me about hitting. Just everyone. It was a team effort in trying to get me right and I'm just happy that I was able to have a good game today."
What type of advice did Varitek provide?
"Obviously, since he was also a left-handed hitter, he's someone that just gave me some advice on my approach and what I should be looking at. And [he was] just trying to help me with the minor details here and there. Just trying to be there for me, really," said Cordero.
Ultimately, Cordero is the one who deserves the credit for not giving up on himself when it might have been tempting to do so.
"This is a hard game," Cordero said. "If it was easy, everybody would be able to do it. I just kept working."
Cordero's teammates noticed.
"I feel good for him," Vázquez said. "He's a great kid, he's still learning, he's strong. I think he's going to be good for us. He needs to continue to work and be confident like he did today. He looked confident and relaxed and swung at good pitches. That's him. He enjoyed the game today."
Winning the rubber match of this three-game series against the 9-23 Tigers was in no way pretty, but the Red Sox (19-13) found a way to get it done.
"But it's a big league win," said Cora. "You've got to take it. That wasn't pretty, but we'll take it. We won two out of three, and now we move on. We have to address a lot of stuff. We know that. We've been saying that."
Perhaps Cordero's troubles will no longer be on the list of things to address.