Chris Sale remained winless and frustrated, but at least he saw a slight improvement. That was about the closest thing to good news for the Red Sox on Tuesday.
Sale struck out 10, but it wasn’t enough as Detroit beat Boston 7-4 to start the Tigers’ first doubleheader sweep at Fenway Park since August 1965. Spencer Turnbull (1-2) pitched five shutout innings for his first major league win, leading the Tigers to a 4-2 victory in the nightcap that left the Red Sox at 9-15.
“It’s a long day. Fortunately for us, we came out on top and healthy,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, came out of it confused and wondering what it will take to turn around what has been a dismal month for the World Series champions.
Brandon Dixon greeted Marcus Walden with a three-run double after the Tigers loaded the bases against Game Two starter Hector Velázquez (0-2), and the Red Sox were swept in a twin-bill for the first time since the Los Angeles Angels accomplished the feat on July 20, 2015.
“Obviously, you don’t want to lose two,” manager Alex Cora said. “We had a lot of traffic out there and we just didn’t get the big hit.”
About all Boston had to celebrate at the end of the day was Sale avoiding another loss (he didn’t figure in the decision) and the Bruins’ 5-1 win over Toronto in Game 7 of the opening round of the NHL playoffs.
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.
“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 clearly felt better than 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.”
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) April 23, 2019
Sale, who won his first nine starts with the Chicago White Sox in 2016, left after 97 pitches with the score 2-2.
“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.”
Matthew Boyd (2-1) combined with three relievers on a five-hitter against Boston, starting a 10-game homestand after a three-game sweep at Tampa Bay. 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.
In the second game, Shane Greene struck out two in a one-hit ninth for his 11th save in as many tries. The opener was Detroit’s first win that Greene did not save.
Boston stranded seven runners against Turnbull and 13 in all.
Bogaerts blooped an RBI single in the seventh off Joe Jimenez and Mike Chavis cut the deficit to 3-2 in the eighth against Victor Alcántara with his first big league homer. John Hicks hit an RBI double in the ninth against Travis Lakins, who made his big league debut and allowed four hits in 2 2/3 innings.
Detroit has won four of five and swept a doubleheader for the first time since Sept. 22, 2016, at Minnesota.
Boston recalled Lakins from Pawtucket and LHP Darwinzon Hernandez from Double-A Portland ahead of the nightcap. Hernandez made his debut when he started the fifth inning Tuesday night. He was replaced with one out and two on in the seventh by Lakins, who struck out Jeimer Candelario and retired Nicholas Castellanos on a groundout. Hernandez allowed four hits, walked one and struck out four in 2 1/3 innings.