Valdez’s first multi-homer game powers Red Sox comeback over Tigers – Boston Herald

Typically when their opponent scores first, the Red Sox stay down.

Perhaps June will be different, though. Because for the second consecutive game, they overcame an early deficit and emerged victorious, beating the Detroit Tigers 6-3 on Saturday evening for their 30th win of the season.

It’s a promising shift for a team that entered the day 7-20 when their opponent scores first. And as was the case on Friday night, it was due to a career performance by one of their youngest, newest additions.

Ceddanne Rafaela’s first career multi-homer game was on Friday, and Enmanuel Valdez followed suit on Saturday. Trailing 1-0, he led off the bottom of the second with a game-tying 399-foot solo homer into the bullpen, then wrapped a two-run shot around the Pesky Pole in the sixth to knock Tigers starter Reese Olson out of the game.

Valdez finished the day 3-for-4 with a double, three runs, and three batted in. It was his first three-hit game of the season and second of his career, and he set new career-highs in extra-base hits and runs scored.

“Cheeky, man, he’s good, he’s a good player,” manager Alex Cora said. “Like I said when I sent him down, he didn’t do anything wrong.”

All told, the Red Sox collected 10 hits (for the second consecutive game), including a multi-hit performance by Jarren Duran and an RBI single by Rafael Devers. Dom Smith collected the first hit of the game, drew a walk, and drove in a run with a fielder’s choice, and Reese McGuire’s sacrifice fly in the fourth netted his first Fenway RBI of the season.

Cooper Criswell rebounded from early trouble to pitch a strong five innings. He gave up a leadoff double to Matt Vierling and the Tigers right-fielder immediately advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a single by No. 2 hitter Riley Greene.

After that, it was mostly smooth sailing for Criswell. The Tigers only collected two more hits, a two-out double in the second and Vierling’s second leadoff double in the sixth, which brought an end to the Sox starter’s day.

Before the game, Cora called for his starter to get back to using the entire strike zone.

“He needs to use every quadrant of the strike zone. He has to,” the Sox skipper said. “He cannot just rely (on) pitching down in the zone. Expanding the plate is something that he will always do, right, with the changeup, sinker, slider or sweeper, whatever you want to call it, but I think elevating with that cutter will put him in a better spot.”

Cooper lived in the lower half of the zone for the majority of his 83-pitch start, but mostly kept the Tigers off-balance. He relied primarily on his sinker, but two of his five strikeouts were on elevated cutters.

“We changed the script halfway through the game,” Cora said postgame. “Did a good job getting ahead, staying ahead. That’s what he’s gonna do, he’s gonna battle and give us everything he has. He’s gonna move the ball around, he used the cutter a little bit more today.”

Brennan Bernardino took over for Criswell with Vierling on second. With one out, Wenceel Pérez smacked one deep to the outfield between center and right. The ball had a 5% catch probability, but the Red Sox had Rafaela. The rookie made a Superman dive, then gunned to second for an inning-ending double play. When the fielder’s returned to the dugout, Criswell greeted Rafaela with a hug.

“He’s special to watch,” the right-hander said. “He’s the type of guy, you know, even when you’re not pitching that day, that you’re out there watching and just always can expect him to make some type of great play. Just fun to watch every single day.”

“Changed the game right there,” Cora said of Rafaela’s catch. “He’s elite. He’s a game-changer. That’s the reason he made the team. It wasn’t the offense, it was his defense, something we were lacking last year, and this year, it’s different. It’s a lot different.”

“Everything that they hit in the air and stays in the ballpark, I believe our outfielders are gonna catch it,” the manager added.

As the shadows grew long and Boston increased their lead, the Tigers got messier. In the bottom of the sixth, Connor Wong was caught stealing second, but ended up on third due to an error by shortstop Javy Baez. The following inning, Devers singled to left, driving in Duran, who’d doubled. Riley Greene’s wide throw home resulted in an error and Devers and Wilyer Abreu (walk) advancing on the bases. In the eighth, Detroit made it three consecutive innings with an error when Rafaela singled and advanced to third on a stolen base and error by the catcher.

The Red Sox carried a five-run advantage into the ninth. Gio Urshela, who hadn’t homered before the Tigers arrived on Thursday, sent a ball over the Monster for the second time in the series, but that was all Detroit got. Newcomer Brad Keller slammed the door with a strikeout.

The largely young, inexperienced Boston lineup capped off their day by defending without making an error.

“We played with five rookies today,” Cora said. “Just to run around, put good at-bats, play good defense with the group that we have, is very gratifying.”

“It was fun today. It was good. I bet people saw the numbers against lefties, off Olson .180, and probably people were like, ‘What’s going on here?” Cora said. “But there’s a few people banged up right now, and that’s the alignment today, and the guys did an outstanding job from the get-go.”

Cora declined to specify which players are banged up, but the Red Sox will be without one outfielder for the foreseeable future. Vaughn Grissom’s early exit with a right-hamstring strain was the lone storm cloud on an otherwise clear-skies day at Fenway, and necessitated Wong taking over at second. While Cora described the injury as “mild,” the second baseman is expected to go on the injured list.

“Very unexpected,” a downcast Grissom said in the clubhouse. “Feel like I was just seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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