BOSTON — If only Jalen Beeks could face Tigers left fielder JaCoby Jones for his entire big league career. The Red Sox lefty making his major league debut Thursday night at Fenway fanned him three times in three plate appearances.
It’s the other eight batters the 24-year-old starter has to master. Beeks allowed six runs on seven hits, with three walks and four strikeouts and took the loss in a 7-2 defeat at the hands of the Tigers. Boston’s 11th-ranked prospect (per Baseball America) threw 88 pitches over his four innings. Click here for the full box.
Beeks, getting the spot start with Drew Pomeranz on the shelf with biceps tendinitis, allowed five runs on four hits in the opening inning and fell behind 5-0 before his college teammate at Arkansas Andrew Benintendi could pick him up a bit in the bottom of the first with his first career leadoff home run.
Behind the plate catching his first game of the season and adding to the complexity of the night was Blake Swihart.
“Catcher’s job is to make him as comfortable as possible out there,” Swihart said. “I could’ve done a better job helping him out. After the first inning, he got into a really good rhythm and started pitching like he knows how to pitch.”
There’ll be better nights and more impressive starts for Beeks, who made his first major league appearance four years to the night he was taken in the 12th round by the Red Sox in the 2014 MLB Draft.
But the most important lesson for Beeks to be learned from giving up five runs on four hits in the nightmarish 32-pitch first first inning of his major league career is the quality of bouncing back.
His career began with a strikeout swinging of JaCoby Jones. But a wall-ball double by Nicholas Castellanos began what turned into a long, ugly inning. Miguel Cabrera walked on a 3-2 pitch. It looked like Beeks was on the verge of getting out of his first-ever inning when Victor Martinez flew out to right.
But Beeks left a 93-MPH fastball on the inner-half for Jeimer Candelario, who ripped a double to left for a 1-0 Tigers lead. On a 2-0 pitch, Tigers catcher John Hicks went inside-out on his swing and punched a single to right for a 3-0 lead. Not a bad pitch but a bad result. With Beeks’ pitch count escalating into the mid-20s, pitching coach Dana LeVangie went out to the mound to settle his rookie down.
Then on a 1-1 offering at the knees but over the middle of the plate, Leonys Martin put a perfect swing on the Beeks pitch and lofted it into the first row of Monster seats for a 5-0 Tigers lead. To think he was nearly out of the first with minimal damage was of little consolation.
“Disappointing. Obviously not how you want to come out (and start),” Beeks said. “First inning was rough. Just gotta execute pitches better. I don’t know if it was emotional. In the end, just got to execute pitches better. I felt pretty comfortable after the first. Just a mechanical thing.
Beeks agreed with his manager Alex Cora that he was leaning too much on fastballs early in the game.
“Yeah, and I talked to the coaches about it. Got to mix in the curveball and changeup early in the game. Just a learning process.”
Vanquished the Monster. pic.twitter.com/8gSYi3N5bp
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) June 7, 2018
After Benintendi got one back with his 11th homer, the Sox lefty had more trouble of his own making in the second. He walked Cabrera and Martinez to load the bases with two outs.
But he got Candelario to ground out into a force play with no more damage. In the third the Tigers combo of Martin and Jose Iglesias would get to Beeks for one more run, as Martin tripled down the right field line and Iglesias followed with a double to left.
If there’s one inning Beeks should take from his big league debut it’s his 1-2-3 fourth inning, retired the heart of the order, including a strikeout looking of Cabrera.
“Yeah, that was definitely ending on a good note,” Beeks said. “It doesn’t change what happened before but got the ball to roll a little bit, felt more comfortable, tempo was better. Definitely how I wanted to end it.”
“Jalen Beeks. That’s what he’s always done. He attacks guys. He’s not backing down from anybody. He has same demeanor no matter what happens. He’s a special pitcher,” Swihart said.
With knuckleballer Steven Wright shining in Tuesday’s win over Detroit, Beeks is likely headed back to Triple-A Pawtucket, where in 10 starts this year he is 3-3 with a 2.56 ERA. He fanned 80 batters in just 56.1 innings pitched. He allowed seven homers in his 10 starts, but he’s held opposing hitters to a .197 average in Triple-A and a 0.98 WHIP, two numbers that figured prominently in his promotion this week. In his 90 minor league appearances since 2014, Beeks is 32-26 with a 3.84 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP.
Thursday wasn’t the debut Beeks had in mind but now he and the organization has a major league reference point, and that alone makes Thursday a winner for Beeks and the Red Sox.
Taking the Fenway mound for the first time!
PLAY BALL! pic.twitter.com/jkBLuQ3YGL
— Red Sox (@RedSox) June 7, 2018