Boston — Manager AJ Hinch doesn’t typically make a mound visit unless he’s changing pitchers. Which made his visit to starter Alex Faedo in the fourth inning of the Tigers’ 5-2 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park Monday curious.
There was nobody warming in the bullpen.
Hinch’s mission became crystal clear. It may have only been the fourth inning but it was a crisis point. The Red Sox had already scored a run and led 3-1. Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Jarren Duran stole third and second, respectively, without a throw.
And with two outs, Faedo had fallen behind in the count to the dangerous Rafael Devers.
“I needed to make a pitch,” Hinch said. “We need to get out of this. They’ve obviously played very well this past month (14-4) and this ballpark is one of the better home field advantages in the game. We can’t let this game slip away.
“It’s a dangerous ballpark if you aren’t locked in on every pitch. That’s why I went out there.”
It was more lecture than conversation. Hinch delivered his message directly, eyeball to eyeball, with his pitcher from him.
“AJ was just giving me some confidence,” was Faedo’s take on it. “He was telling me, ‘Hey, we’re behind you here. Let’s make a pitch and get out of this inning.'”
That may have been the PG version, but regardless, Faedo did buckle down. He kind of picked his poison — behind in the count against left-handed hitting Devers with first base open or take your chances with also-dangerous right-handed hitting JD Martinez.
“Both of those guys are so good, you just try to stay away from the middle of the plate,” Faedo said. “I threw a 3-2 breaking ball to Devers and he spit on a good pitch. You want to make a perfect pitch but you’re OK with walking him because he can do so much damage.
“Walking him with that open base isn’t really going to hurt you. But you have to trust yourself against the next guy.”
Faedo got Martinez to ground out to second base and it was a huge escape at that moment. Alas, it was his last escape from him.
“You need to stay on top of everything here,” Hinch said. “You’ve got to make adjustments and you’ve got to make pitches. You can get out of the game really quickly. When he hung in there in the fourth, we sent him back out for the fifth.
“We can’t keep asking our bullpen to get 15-plus outs. We’re going to drive those guys into the ground.”
Hinch needed Faedo to at least get through the third batter in the fifth — Trevor Story — before turning it over to lefty Tyler Alexander. Didn’t happen. With one out, Faedo gave up a single to Alex Verdugo and a double to Trevor Story.
Both of those runs would score on a broken bat single by left-handed hitting Franchy Cordero off Alexander. The ball was beaten off the plate and bounced over the drawn-in infield. Figures, after all that hard contract, two runs score on a ball that left a broken bat at 78 mph.
“I learned that every pitch matters,” Faedo said. “I threw a couple of breaking balls, just get-me-over strikes, and they took advantage of them. I need to be a little more crisp on those. When Tucker (Barnhart, catcher) calls for fastball up and in, don ‘t miss down and in. They took advantage of that.
“I think I made a lot of good pitches but they took advantage of the ones I missed location on.”
Faedo ended up being tagged for eight hits and five runs (four earned). And there weren’t many cheapies. The average exit velocity on the 20 balls the Red Sox put in play against him was a robust 93 mph. Four of the hits were doubles.
“I was really happy AJ let me go out for the fifth, I’m happy he trusted me,” Faedo said. “Next time I hope I can throw up a zero for him.”
The Tigers, after scoring 21 runs the two previous games, couldn’t do much against rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski, who was making his third big-league start. He scattered seven hits but didn’t pitch under much duration.
Rookie Riley Greene walked in the second inning and raced to third on a single to left by Jeimer Candelario, who was activated off the injured list before the game. Spencer Torkelson, who had two hits for the third straight game, brought Greene in with sacrificial fly to center.
Winckowski was running out of steam in the seventh. Torkelson ripped a two-out single and scored on a long double to right-center by Jonathan Schoop.
The Tigers threatened in the eighth, but an old friend came in to shut things down. With Miguel Cabrera on first and two outs, Red Sox manager Alex Cora brought in former Tigers side-arming reliever John Schreiber.
With his sweeping slider, he got two quick strikes on Javier Báez. But Báez stayed in the at-bat and lined a 1-2 slider into the left field corner for a double, moving Cabrera to third.
When Schreiber was with the Tigers, he struggled to get his fastball over 90 mph. He’s a different pitcher these days. He struck out Riley Greene to end the inning throwing 95, 96 and 97-mph heaters.
The Tigers were limited to two runs or less for the league-high (tied with Oakland) 34th time this season.