Red Sox

Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

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Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

BALTIMORE — On the night Major League Baseball saw its record for home runs in a season broken, the team with the fewest homers in the American League took a scoreless tie into extra innings.

In the 11th, the Red Sox won in a fashion they hadn’t in 100 years.

Just how peculiar was their 1-0 win over the Orioles, the AL leaders in homers? The lone run came when Jackie Bradley Jr. bolted home on a wild pitch from Brad Brach. So? So, the Red Sox won, but did not officially record a run batted in on the day MLB’s greatest league-wide power show to date was celebrated.

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The last time the Sox won an extra-inning game without recording an RBI was a century ago, in 1918. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played in that game. 

It’s a weird time for the Sox offense. A weird year, really. Because the Sox are in first place, and have been, but they don’t drive the ball. Their .408 slugging percentage was the fifth lowest in the majors entering Tuesday.

They’re also in the bottom third for strikeouts, the top five in steals and the top 10 in batting average (.260). That's the description of an effective National League offense. An old-school, move-the-line group that makes more contact than all but four teams in the majors. 

The rest of baseball is switching to golf swings to pound low-ball pitching. The Sox look like they could be on a black-and-white newsreel shuffling around the bags.

Should you have faith in that method come the playoffs? There's reason to be dubious.

But the construction should be appreciated for the sake of disparity, both in the context of recent Red Sox history and the sport’s home-run renaissance.

Alex Gordon of the Royals hit the season’s 5,964th home run Tuesday, besting the record mark set in 2000 — dead in the middle of the steroid era.

At present, the Sox lineup is particularly out of sorts because of injuries. Dustin Pedroia should be back Wednesday, but was out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Hanley Ramirez isn’t starting either. Eduardo Nunez’s rehab from a knee injury is coming along, but may not move quite as quickly as expected.

Even if all are healthy, this group remains strange. Because the Sox offense looks so different than what people expect of the Sox, the opposite of what people expect of an American League East-winning team. The opposite of what people expect of any American League team, period.

The arms are the driving force for the Sox, and must remain so if they’re to be successful in October. The sturdiness of the bullpen, tired but resolute, cannot be understated when the workload is extended in September. No team can go 15-3 in extra-inning games without stellar and timely pitching.

But the entirety of pitching coach Carl Willis’ staff has been wonderful. Drew Pomeranz didn’t have his best fastball velocity on Tuesday and was still effective in 6 1/3 innings.

The outfield play can’t be overlooked either. Bradley’s a brilliant patrolman in center field and his leaping catches to rob home runs — he took one away from Chris Davis Tuesday — have been their own attractions.

The Sox, meanwhile, just don't hit many balls far enough to be robbed.

If you’re cut from an old-school cloth, and didn’t really love those station-to-station, home-run powered offenses of yore, this Sox team is for you. There's something to be said for the experience of simply watching something different.

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Red Sox bats go silent in 5-0 loss to Tigers

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Red Sox bats go silent in 5-0 loss to Tigers

DETROIT -- Mike Fiers might be pitching his way into a pennant chase.

The Detroit right-hander worked impressively into the seventh inning Saturday night, and Jose Iglesias homered and drove in four runs to lift the Tigers to a 5-0 win over the Boston Red Sox.

Fiers has been sharp lately, and after lowering his ERA to 3.49, he's looking more and more like someone the rebuilding Tigers might trade to a contender.

"You see it. You see your name pop up here and there," Fiers said. "I've just got to keep my mind focused on baseball and pitching and just go out there every fifth day."

The major league-leading Red Sox lost for just the second time in 15 games, and their AL East edge over the New York Yankees slipped to 4 1/2 games.

Fiers (7-6) had his first scoreless outing since his Tigers debut April 8, when he beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0 in Detroit's only other shutout this season. This time, he allowed seven hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings, striking out six.

Brian Johnson (1-3) gave up two unearned runs and five hits in five innings for Boston. He struck out five.

Detroit took the lead in the second after Victor Martinez reached on an error by third baseman Rafael Devers, playing his first game since being reinstated from the disabled list. Devers fielded Martinez's grounder well behind third and his throw went past first, enabling Martinez to arrive safely.

That miscue proved costly when Iglesias came up with two outs and hit a two-run double, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead.

Fiers was with the World Series champion Astros last year, but did not pitch in the postseason. He made one appearance in the playoffs for Houston in 2015.

He's making a nice case for another chance this season. Fiers threw only two balls through the first two innings Saturday, and he allowed three runs or fewer for the ninth time in his last 10 starts. He struck out Xander Bogaerts for the third out of the fifth with runners on first and third.

Boston threatened again in the sixth, but with two on JaCoby Jones was able to run down Jackie Bradley Jr.'s drive at the warning track in left field. In the bottom of the inning, Jeimer Candelario hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0, and Iglesias added a two-run homer .

Fiers exited with runners at the corners in the seventh. Alex Wilson got Bogaerts to ground into a double play, ending the inning.

Boston star Mookie Betts had two hits, raising his big league-leading average to .355. He also made a superb catch in right field in the third, reaching above the wall to catch Leonys Martin's drive.

"I really needed that," Johnson said. "We're so lucky to have this outfield. It is almost scary how many times they make plays like that. They almost seem routine, but they really aren't."

The Red Sox have been held to one run so far in this series by Detroit, although they did win the opener 1-0 on Friday night.

"Boston's scored one run in two games, and that's hard to do," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That says a lot about our pitching staff."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Devers (left shoulder inflammation) went 1 for 4. ... 2B Brock Holt, who left Friday's game with a bruised knee, was out of the lineup. Manager Alex Cora said he'd like to give Holt the weekend off. ... DH-OF J.D. Martinez had the day off after running into the wall while making a catch Friday. "These guys that make the All-Star Game, they really don't have an All-Star break," Cora said. "He's getting the day off because he ran into the wall, but I think it's a good day off for him anyway."

DENIED

Fiers wanted a chance to face Martinez, his college teammate from Nova Southeastern in Florida. It didn't happen.

"I've already texted him," Fiers said. "All my friends have texted him, too. They're not going to let him off easy."

UP NEXT

Boston ace Chris Sale (10-4) starts the series finale Sunday against Blaine Hardy (3-2). Sale is 5-1 with a 0.94 ERA in his last seven starts.

J.D. Martinez out of lineup, sore after crashing into wall

J.D. Martinez out of lineup, sore after crashing into wall

A night after crashing into the right-field wall making a catch in the third inning of their 1-0 victory in Detroit, J.D. Martinez is out of the Red Sox lineup.

Here's a look at the catch: 

The news of Martinez getting the night off prompted this exchange with reporters, via The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said the "general soreness" won't make him reluctant from using Martinez, second in the majors in homers with 29 and tops in RBI with 80, in the outfield, where he's played 39 games in his first season in Boston, compared to 54 at DH.

Mookie Betts is back in right Saturday, with Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Andrew Benintendi in right.

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