The shorthanded Red Sox faced the Detroit Tigers and Michael Fulmer on Friday afternoon for Detroit’s 2017 home opener.The Tigers sent Michael Fulmer to the mound while Boston countered with knuckleballer Steven Wright. Boston was without Hanley Ramirez (illness), Mookie Betts (illness), Robbie Ross Jr. (illness), Xander Bogaerts (bereavement), and Matt Barnes (bereavement). Marco Hernandez and Noe Ramirez were called up for Bogaerts and Barnes, respectively.
Ian Kinsler led off the bottom of the first with a groundball single up the middle after Michael Fulmer tossed a scoreless first inning. Wright then walked Nick Castellanos, and Kinsler advanced to third base when Miguel Cabrera hit a foul pop fly to right field. The Tigers second baseman scored on a Victor Martinez sac fly, giving the Tigers a 1-0 advantage. Wright was able to escape without further damage, despite walking Justin Upton, by striking out Tyler Collins to end the first inning.
Fulmer saw his first trouble in the top of the third when he hit Andrew Benintendi with a pitch to load the bases following back-to-back singles by Brock Holt and Dustin Pedroia. Mitch Moreland was unable to bring any of the runners in, however, as he struck out on an elevated fastball from the Detroit righty.
Castellanos hit a one-out triple to the gap in left-center field in the sixth inning. The Red Sox then elected to intentionally walk Cabrera after a first-pitch ball, and Martinez followed that up by singling home Castellanos to bring the score to 2-0. Wright induced his third double play of the day when Justin Upton hit a groundball to Marco Hernandez to get out of the jam.
Michael Fulmer earned a quality start, as the right-hander kept the Red Sox off the board over six innings. He scattered four hits and two walks while striking out four. Lefty Justin Wilson replaced Fulmer in the seventh to face the bottom of the Red Sox order.
Pablo Sandoval reached second base in the seventh when right fielder Ty Collins misplayed a shallow fly ball that was influenced by the swirling Michigan winds. With Steve Selsky pinch hitting for designated hitter Brock Holt, Sandoval advanced to third base on a wild pitch from Wilson. However, the Red Sox third baseman would be stranded as Selsky struck out to end the inning.
Collins began the bottom of the seventh by ripping a ground ball up the middle for the Tigers’ sixth hit of the afternoon. Wright then coughed up a two-run shot by catcher James McCann, giving the Tigers a 4-0 lead. The knuckleballer then retired JaCoby Jones and Jose Iglesias before being lifted from the game in favor of righty Ben Taylor. Wright tossed 6 ⅔ innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks. Wright also hit one batter (second baseman Ian Kinsler) with a wild knuckler and struck out four. Taylor was able to strike out the Tigers second baseman to end the seventh inning.
Andrew Benintendi reached base via a six-pitch walk in the top of the eighth off of righty Bruce Rondon. It was the young left fielder’s third time on base (two walks and a hit by pitch). Benintendi then stole second and advanced to third on Moreland’s first hit as a Red Sox. Chris Young then smacked a double down the left field, scoring Benintendi and chasing Rondon from the game after the righty retired just one batter.
With the score at 4-1, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus turned to right-handed Alex Wilson to get his team out of the one-out jam with men on second and third. Jackie Bradley Jr. greeted Wilson with a base hit through the right side of the infield, scoring Moreland and advancing Young to third.
Following a Sandy Leon strikeout, Ausmus marched out to the mound to get the ball from Wilson, and called upon Francisco Rodriguez to get the four-out save. K-Rod was greeted by a three-run homer by Sandoval, giving the Red Sox a 5-4 lead. That’s how the score would stay as Rodriguez retired Hernandez to end the top of the eighth.
Red Sox manager John Farrell turned to Heath Hembree to pitch in the bottom of the eighth. The righty struck out Castellanos and Cabrera before walking designated hitter Victor Martinez. Austin Romine entered the game to pinch run for Martinez. Hembree then walked Justin Upton and was replaced in favor of lefty Robby Scott to face left-handed hitter Ty Collins, but the Tigers countered with pinch hitter Mikie Mahtook.
The pinch hitter did his job, smoking a curveball down the left field line to tie the game at 5-5. With runners in scoring position, Farrell gave the ball to Joe Kelly to see if the righty could keep the score even. Kelly loaded the bases with a James McCann walk, then walked in the potential game-winning run on a JaCoby Jones base on balls.The score would remain at 6-5 after an Ian Kinsler groundout to his counterpart Dustin Pedroia.
K-Rod stayed in the game to pitch the ninth and to attempt to get his first win of the 2017 season. The venerable righty allowed a Pedroia single after retiring Selsky, who grounded out weakly to first. After retiring Benintendi on a fly ball to left field, Rodriguez watched as Moreland laced his second double of the day to left field. Pedroia was unable to score, however, leaving men on second and third with two outs for Chris Young. K-Rod earned the win by inducing a pop up to first baseman Miguel Cabrera from Young.