BOSTON -- After falling into a five-run hole in the first inning against the Tigers, the Red Sox failed to convert scoring opportunities to mount a comeback and complete the series sweep, falling to Detroit, 7-2, on Thursday night at Fenway Park.Jalen Beeks struggled on the mound in his first
BOSTON -- After falling into a five-run hole in the first inning against the Tigers, the Red Sox failed to convert scoring opportunities to mount a comeback and complete the series sweep, falling to Detroit, 7-2, on Thursday night at Fenway Park.
Jalen Beeks struggled on the mound in his first career start, allowing four hits, one walk and a home run in the first inning to put the Red Sox in a 5-0 hole they would not recover from.
Blake Swihart, who made his catching debut in the loss, caught Beeks when he played at Triple-A Pawtucket. He said he lamented waiting to get Beeks' off-speed pitches more involved in the mix.
"I haven't seen him in a few months," Swihart said. "So I was just trying to go out there and remember what I could remember with him with his fastball, cutter and play it off with that."
Beeks took a fastball-heavy approach to the first inning, but his pitches were too high, allowing the Tigers the opportunity to hammer hits early.
"In Pawtucket, I was pretty fastball-heavy, but I usually execute my fastball location better in the first inning," Beeks said. "But I was just missing pitches in the first."
Andrew Benintendi responded to the Tigers' big inning immediately, blasting his first career leadoff home run over the bullpen to narrow the deficit to 5-1. It was Benintendi's 11th home run of the season, and his fourth in the past five games.
But Boston failed to build on his momentum. The Red Sox managed five hits, including a fifth-inning double by Blake Swihart, who later scored on an RBI groundout by Xander Bogaerts, but their efforts weren't enough to contest the Tigers' convincing lead.
"Obviously, not ideal," Beeks said. "But you've just got to learn from it, and that's what I'm going to do."
That's what he did as soon as the second inning. Despite faltering in the first inning, Beeks, Boston's No. 15 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, grew more comfortable as the game progressed, allowing three hits, one run and two walks over his last three innings.
"I think spin rate and his fastball will play at this level, but you have to mix it up, you have to slow them down a little bit so the fastball plays up in the zone," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "Right away it did, with [JaCoby] Jones and even with [Nicholas] Castellanos. That ball obviously here is a double, but there were some pitches you could see that they were able to get to those pitches ... because we weren't using off-speed pitches earlier. We didn't show it to them. As soon as he starts showing it ... then the swings weren't as aggressive as in the first inning."
Beeks said he spoke with the coaches about mixing up his pitches more -- turning to his curveball and changeup to throw off batters. And as he made those adjustments, he began to have some success on the mound.
He retired five consecutive batters to end his first career start with four strikeouts, seven hits, six runs and three walks in four innings.
Beeks left the Red Sox's clubhouse with an unmarked black cap over his eyes, out of the spotlight as quickly as he entered it. The Red Sox will option Beeks to Pawtucket, but Cora said the start was a valuable learning experience in Beeks' growth as a pitcher.
"It wasn't the start that he wanted, or we wanted from him," Cora said. "I think it's going to help him out. for him to keep developing at this level, we've been talking throughout the season, it's very important to mix up your pitches and he learned that in the first inning and after that, he was OK, so like I told him, he competed. After that first inning, he kept going, he kept attacking and he made some adjustments, so we're proud of the way he competed today."
Relievers Christopher Johnson and Hector Velazquez held the Tigers to one run over the final five innings. But the Red Sox still could not connect, despite stringing together two hits in the eighth inning.
Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez didn't play the final two innings due to discomfort in his back. Martinez exited Sunday's game in Houston with back spasms and started the next game. Cora said the discomfort was not as severe this time.
"He felt a little bit tight and at the point of the game, though I felt we still had a shot, one swing away to get back into the game, stay away from him and hopefully he'll be back tomorrow," Cora said. "Not as bad as in Houston but still, I kind of I felt like it was a smart move tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Double play costs Red Sox scoring opportunity: With the bases loaded and red-hot Benintendi at the plate in the bottom of the second inning, it looked like the Red Sox had a chance to close the 5-1 gap with the Tigers. But Benintendi grounded to shortstop Jose Iglesias, who quickly converted the double play. The Red Sox stranded nine on base in the game.
The five-run first inning marked the most runs the Red Sox have allowed in the opening frame since a five-run first against the Brewers on May 9, 2017. It also marked the third time this season Boston allowed five or more runs in a single inning.
HE SAID IT
"I felt good back there, you know, blocking, receiving everything. There's always some fine-tuning stuff to do, and the more I work on it, the more I get out there, the better it's going to be." -- Swihart, on his catching debut
Chris Sale will take the mound on Friday to face his former team, the White Sox, where he spent seven seasons. He was 74-50 with a 3.00 ERA in 228 career appearances with the White Sox. Sale enters the matchup 5-3 with a 3.00 ERA and .98 WHIP. Against the White Sox last year, Sale struck out nine but departed after five innings, nine hits and six runs. The White Sox will counter with Dylan Covey (1-1, 2.82). First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Blake Richardson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston.