BOSTON -- Not since Bobby Valentine guided the Red Sox through 162 mostly miserable games in 2012 had the team suffered through a losing streak of more than three games. Until now.
The fourth straight defeat was a 6-2 loss Sunday night at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, who swept the three-game series, extended their road winning streak to 11 games and sent a definitive message that although they lost to Boston in the ALCS last fall, the Tigers are a vastly superior club in 2014.
Jake Peavy gave up five runs on 11 hits -- many of the hard-hit variety -- in his second straight rocky outing. He has allowed 20 hits in 10 1/3 innings in those two starts while striking out just three. The veteran has given up 14 runs in his last 10 innings against Detroit, which includes his stinker in Game 4 of the ALCS and part of a start versus the Tigers last season when he was still with the Chicago White Sox.
Fortunate first: There were two very well-struck hits against Peavy in the first inning and another that is a base hit to center 99 times out of 100. However, no Tiger reached third base in the frame.
Ian Kinsler put a dent near the top of the Green Monster with a smash that resulted in only a single. Torii Hunter then hit a grounder right up the middle but because Kinsler was running on the pitch, Dustin Pedroia had moved to the second base bag and was waiting there to begin an easy 4-3 double play. Miguel Cabrera followed with a ringing double to right but was stranded.
Nothing but a goose egg on the scoreboard, but after Peavy was hit so hard in his prior start, the early contact was notable in this one. It was only fitting that Detroit’s first run came on a bloop single over third base in the third that Cabrera had to fight off.
Eventually, the hard hits caught up with Peavy, including a scenario in the fifth when Kinsler again took off from first but this time Hunter’s shot up the middle got behind Pedroia for a base hit that put set up Cabrera’s sacrifice fly.
Touched again: Victor Martinez slugged a two-run shot after Cabrera’s RBI single in the third. That made Sunday the 10th straight game dating to last season in which Peavy has served up a home run. Walks are up, home runs are up. That’s not a good combination.
One area in which Peavy had excelled this season was in two-out scenarios. He had limited opponents to an 8-for-50 showing in such situations before Detroit went 5-for-10 with two outs against the righty.
Make sure of it this time: Hunter did not need to worry about Red Sox defenders during his at–bat in the seventh. However, motorists on the Mass Pike might have had some cause for concern after Hunter deposited a Junichi Tazawa offering off the parking garage on Lansdowne Street and into the train tracks aside the Pike for his fifth home run of the year.
Tazawa has allowed six runs in eight innings -- including the only two homers he has given up this year -- over his last eight outings.
The old 3-1 double play: Peavy escaped the fifth inning in odd fashion. With Hunter at first and one out, Martinez hit a hard grounder to Mike Napoli at first base. Napoli speared it and found Hunter to his second base side. He turned to tag Hunter but took a step or so after the out, seemingly forgetting that he also had a play at first base. Napoli finally wheeled and fired to Peavy covering to nip Martinez and record the third out.
The old 2-5 putout: It may not look quite as funky in the scorebook but if you saw the final out of the top of the seventh, you witnessed perhaps the oddest play of the game. A foul pop near the Tigers’ on-deck area bounced off the glove of Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski and directly into the bare hand of third baseman Brock Holt.
Holt also had a diving stop and stole a base. He may not be the answer at third base, but he continues to provide a spark when given the chance.
A little R&R: Before the game, Red Sox manager John Farrell talked about the merit of days off for struggling young players such as Jackie Bradley Jr., who rested Saturday. The down day appeared to have immediate dividends, as Bradley roped a hard single to right to end a six-pitch encounter in his first at-bat.
Some of the positive vibes went away with a three-pitch strikeout in Bradley’s second at-bat and he was replaced for a pinch hitter in the sixth. We will have to see if the line drive in the second has any lingering effects.
A Tigers note: Just because it is so impressive. Cabrera is 57-for-127 with 15 home runs with runners in scoring position and two outs over the past three seasons. That is an MVP-caliber statistic.