Matt Barnes saves the night as Red Sox hold off Tigers

After suffering their first series loss since the first weekend of the season, the first-place Red Sox took some time for themselves.

Monday’s off day allowed them to spend time with family, come into Fenway for treatment and otherwise just relax in a brief stay at home before they embark on a stretch of playing 13 games in a row.

“It was a good one to recharge,” manager Alex Cora said.

But even with the lowly Tigers in town, with the worst record in baseball, the Red Sox needed to use all the juice they had. After two frustrating losses to the Rangers to begin the month of May, the Red Sox made life more difficult for themselves than they needed to on Tuesday night, but ultimately held on for a 11-7 victory in a sloppy game on both sides.

The Red Sox improved to 18-12, but it wasn’t without some unnecessarily nervous moments. With their backs against the wall and in a bit of desperation late, the Red Sox turned their most dominant reliever to save them.

The Red Sox had led 9-3, and looked well on their way to an easy victory. But a four-run Tigers sixth — aided by a three-run homer given up by Austin Brice — made things uncomfortable for the Red Sox. In the eighth, they suddenly found themselves with the game in the balance when back-to-back walks from Darwinzon Hernandez loaded the bases with one out.

That’s when Cora called on Matt Barnes, who was fresh off being voted the American League’s Reliever of the Month after his terrific April, to save the night in unconventional fashion. The move was exactly the right one.

Facing Miguel Cabrera, who is struggling mightily at the plate this season and had already struck out twice Tuesday, Barnes needed just two pitches to get out of the jam, as Cabrera grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Barnes retired the Tigers side in order in the ninth for his first career five-out save.

“We have to go win the game,” Cora said of going to Barnes in the eighth. “Our offense did an outstanding job. We had a hiccup there in the sixth inning when we gave up four. … You have to go to the best in that situation. We used Adam (Ottavino) earlier because of the matchups, and we felt like the matchups were good for us in the eighth inning with Darwinzon. It didn’t work out, but Barnesy made a good pitch to Miguel, and he finished the game.”

Other takeaways from Tuesday’s win:

* Renfroe continued his recent tear with a 3-for-4 night, which included the 100th homer of his career. He was a triple short of hitting for the cycle, and there was a chance for it when he hit a deep fly ball in his final at-bat. He said that he would have went for it.

“I wasn’t stopping at second,” Renfroe said. “That’s for sure. I was gonna get thrown out at third before I stopped at second. I was going for it.”

Renfroe is now 6-for-12 in his last three games with two homers and five RBI, and 12 RBI in his last 17. He’s providing a much-needed lift to the bottom of a lineup that has struggles through the first month of the season, one the Red Sox hope can get going consistently.

“I mean, you got guys in the bottom of the lineup that hit the ball 500 feet, I think that’s pretty special that not a lot of people have,” Renfroe said. “With the speed that Franchy (Cordero) has and stuff like that, if he ever gets going, I think that’s going to be a huge offensive help for everybody, and just take the load off of Bogaerts, and J.D. (Martinez) and those guys at the top of the lineup knowing that they don’t have to necessarily be on their A game when you’ve got guys at the bottom of the lineup picking up their slack.”

* The Red Sox jumped out to a commanding lead as they continued their recent habit of ending opposing starters’ nights early, and Michael Fulmer was the latest victim.

Fulmer recorded just two outs and it was all by his own doing, even if the Red Sox gave him every opportunity to get out of the first inning. After Kiké Hernández drew a leadoff walk, Alex Verdugo followed with a grounder back to the pitcher in what should have been a double play, but Fulmer airmailed the throw to second into the outfield.

That set off a long inning for the Tigers. Four singles gave the Red Sox an early 4-0 lead and chased Fulmer out of the game, the third time since April 19 that the Sox have pushed the opposing starter out of the game in the first inning. They went to work on their bullpen, too, as they opened up an 8-2 lead thanks to homers from Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts. Renfroe and Hernandez also tallied homers, which were ultimately much needed.

“It was a fun night for the offense,” Cora said. “We needed all of that. We put some good swings. We were relentless. We put the ball in play early, right? That’s what we’re trying to do. We used the big part of the field, and when you do that, big things are going to happen.”

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