Chris Sale remained winless and frustrated, which was a slight improvement.
Sale remained struck out a season-high 10 in five innings but remained winless after five starts as the Boston Red Sox lost to the Detroit Tigers 7-4 in a doubleheader opener Tuesday.
“A step in the right direction, but I’m still not satisfied,” said Sale, who managed not to take a loss for the first time this year.
Sale gave up two runs, five hits and two walks, lowering his ERA from 8.50 to 7.43. The 30-year-old, who signed a $160 million, six-year contract late in spring training, had never gone his first five starts in a big league season without a victory.
Sale clearly felt better that after an 8-0 loss last week at the New York Yankees, which he called “flat-out embarrassing.”
Sale said his velocity continued to improve, but had some command issues again.
“I need to clean some things up around the edges, but we’ll get there,” Sale said. “I can’t make them put the ball in play, but I can fill up the strike zone and throw strikes.”
Sale, who won his first nine starts with the Chicago White Sox in 2016, left after 97 with the score 2-2.
“I at least gave my team a chance to win when I left the ballgame, but still relying on my bullpen guys too much,” Sale said. “We’ve been leaning on those guys down there a lot — myself, mostly. It’d just be nice to be able to go out there and fill up seven or eight innings or even finish a game for these guys and give them a day off.”
That would have been especially nice Tuesday after the opener of the four-game series was rained out Monday night.
“I felt that he was better than the last one as far as like command,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “Give them credit for getting the pitch count up in five innings, then they did what they did with the bullpen.”
Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire was impressed how his lineup capitalized on Sale’s mistakes.
“He’s tough and he’s going to punch out guys. That’s what he’s known for and that’s what he does, and you’ve just got to find a way, try to get a couple here and there off him,” Gardenhire said. “We did that — when he made a mistake we got aggressive on him and jumped him, kind of ambushed him a little bit.”
Matthew Boyd (2-1) combined with three relievers on a five-hitter. Boston, starting a 10-game homestand after a three-game sweep at Tampa Bay, dropped to 9-14.
Josh Harrison hit a tiebreaking, two-run double in the eighth off Colten Brewer (0-2) and scored two pitches later on a single by Grayson Greiner.
Ronny Rodriguez had three hits, including a home run, and Greiner also homered for the Tigers. Xander. Bogaerts homered twice for Boston, doubling his season total.
Boyd allowed two runs and three hits in seven innings.
“It was a little funky out there on the mound today in terms of just feel and whatnot, but we just rolled with it. We adapted, and it was good,” Boyd said.
Mookie Betts had a two-run single in the third, but Rodriguez hit an RBI double in the fourth, Greiner homered in the fifth and Rodriguez homered in the sixth for a 3-2 lead. Bogaerts’ first homer tied the score in the bottom half.
Miguel Cabrera added an RBI single in the ninth against Bobby Poyner, who was optioned to Pawiucket after the opener. Bogaerts homered against Drew VerHagen in the bottom half.
Boston recalled RHP Travis Lakins from Pawtucket and LHP Darwinzon Hernandez from Double-A Portland ahead of the nightcap.
Tigers: SS Jordy Mercer, placed on the 10-day IL last week with a right quadriceps strain, will continue his rehab at extended spring training in Lakeland, Florida. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Mercer could be back in four or five days. … Gardenhire dropped Harrison from leadoff to seventh in the batting order and hit Jeimer Candelario first. Harrison had a pair of hits and raised his average from .122 to .141.
Red Sox: RHP Nathan Eovaldi had surgery Tuesday to remove a loose body in his right elbow and is expected to miss about six weeks. Eovaldi had similar surgery on March 30 last year while with Tampa Bay and made his season debut May 30. He also has had two Tommy John operations. “I don’t want to give a timetable, but I think everybody knows around what it’s going to take,” Cora said. “He should be fine when he comes back and ready to roll.”
Detroit’s Spencer Turnbull (0-2, 3.43 ERA) was to face Hector Velázquez (0-1, 2.84) in a matchup of right-handers in the night game.
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