Tigers, Red Sox open weekend series in Boston (Jun 09, 2017)
BOSTON -- Three call-ups, three starts.
Welcome to the 2017 world of young Boston Red Sox left-hander Brian Johnson, who again returns from Triple-A Pawtucket, this time to face the Detroit Tigers and Jordan Zimmermann in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park on Friday night.
Johnson, who is replacing injured lefty Eduardo Rodriguez in the rotation, pitched five innings and got the win at Toronto on April 18, and then pitched a five-hitter to shut out the Seattle Mariners on May 27 at Fenway Park. He was optioned right back to Pawtucket after that game and now returns to face a right-handed-heavy Tigers lineup.
"There's been, I think, a steady, gradual progression to this point from the personal things he's gone through to the physical things he's had to deal with and to the uptick in stuff and the action in the stuff and not just in terms of velocity," Boston manager John Farrell said. "But think the action in secondary pitches (has made a difference)."
Johnson, who will try to snap Boston's two-game losing streak, is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in the majors and 2-0 with a 2.72 in the minors. He left a Triple-A start last Saturday after going back down with a hamstring cramping, but he was able to throw a 33-pitch bullpen session Tuesday and reported he "felt good physically."
The Red Sox (32-27) won the opener of the three-game series with the Yankees on Tuesday, but then lost the last two games in New York by a combined 17-1 -- Rick Porcello and David Price getting roughed up on back-to-back nights.
The two losses gave Boston a 5-5 tally on its road trip. The Red Sox now come home for five before traveling again.
The Tigers (29-30) had won five of their last six games and had a chance to get over .500 on Thursday for the first time since May 20, but they blew a 3-0 lead and lost 11-4 at home to the Angels. That gave Los Angeles a 2-1 series win.
Detroit had 15 hits but scored just four runs Thursday.
"We're still swinging the bats well. We pretty much have for about a week now," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Let's hope we carry it over into Boston."
Zimmermann, coming off a strong start and a win his last time out, is 5-4 with a 5.98 ERA, but he is just 2-3 since the start of May. He is 2-1 with a 4.89 ERA in four lifetime starts against the Red Sox, 0-1 with a 9.64 ERA in two starts at Fenway Park.
The current Boston roster is hitting a combined .341 against him, and that includes an 0-for-10 by Chris Young. Pablo Sandoval is 7-for-17 (.412), Hanley Ramirez 10-for-26 (.385) with a homer and six RBIs, Mitch Moreland 3-for-6 and Mookie Betts 2-for-2.
Daniel Norris pitches the Sunday night game for the Tigers, who hope to have ace Justin Verlander pitching Saturday night. Verlander left his last start with a groin strain and threw in the bullpen session Thursday. Drew VerHagen could be summoned from the minors to pitch if Verlander can't.
Johnson, who has overcome all kinds of physical and emotional (anxiety) issues to make his way back to the major leagues, pitched his shutout with his dad in attendance.
He became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his Fenway debut since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998.
"To even be mentioned with his name is incredible," Johnson told WEEI following the game, after receiving a Gatorade shower.
Only two runners reached scoring position in Johnson's effort, both in the fifth inning.
Dustin Pedroia, who has been on the disabled list with a left wrist sprain, is set to return Friday night, with Sam Travis the most likely candidate to be sent to Pawtucket.
"I'm excited to be back," Pedroia said Thursday. "The training staff got me ready, so I'm excited about it."
The Tigers are expected to activate catcher James McCann on Friday, and the right-handed hitter is likely to get right back in there against the Boston lefties. He has been out since sustaining a left hand laceration on May 25.