BOSTON -- After 25 wins, the Red Sox can say they're a winning team, and they beat one of the game's best to earn that right.
Daniel Bard, who has battled mechanical inconsistencies and low strikeout numbers of late, showed improvement and was more effective than Tigers ace Justin Verlander in a 6-3 win on Tuesday night at Fenway Park. That pushed the Sox above .500 for the first time in 2012, at 25-24. The last time Boston had taken this long to reach a winning record was in 1996.
"Daniel pitched well ... and we beat a great pitcher," manager Bobby Valentine said. "Guys, I say this is a tough team. We did it without [injured second baseman Dustin Pedroia] on a day where maybe we thought we were going to lose him for a while, all that stuff swirling around. It's mentally a tough team. They like to play. I'm kind of glad we broke through that artificial barrier."
Verlander, who gave up season highs in earned runs (five) and hits (10) over six innings, wasn't sharp. While Bard lasted just 5 1/3 innings, he was productive, allowing just two runs. Verlander had turned in a quality start against the Sox the previous five times he'd faced them, including Opening Day.
"Justin wasn't as sharp as normal," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "but give them credit. They swung the bats real good and we just couldn't get enough offense going."
Verlander had something Bard still seems to be searching for -- the ability to rear back and find some extra velocity in tight situations. On Tuesday, though, that next level didn't help Verlander, and Bard didn't need it to do his job.
Boston led 1-0 with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth inning. The fifth pitch Daniel Nava saw was a 99-mph fastball that he missed, bringing the count full, after Verlander had hit 100 once and 99 twice. Pitch No. 6 was again 100, but it was down the middle, and Nava rifled it to left for a bases-clearing double.
"The first at-bat I had I was really trying to pick the ball up, was having a hard time picking the ball up, so from that point -- I had that 3-1 pitch that I swung through -- and I needed to shorten my swing up," said Nava, who's trying out as the Sox's leadoff hitter. "Fortunately, I got a pitch to do that with and I had guys on base. Just keep it simple. I think I got out of my approach a little on 3-1 because it was a hitter's count. I just tried to calm myself down and keep it simple."
Staked to a 4-0 lead, Bard did not come right back and shut the door. Detroit hit two solo home runs off him, the first from Jhonny Peralta with one out in the fifth, and then from Prince Fielder in the sixth.
With Boston ahead 4-1 in the fifth, Miguel Cabrera came to the plate as the potential tying run. The fastballs Bard threw Cabrera didn't jump into the high-90s as he's physically capable of, but he still got Cabrera to wave at a heater before putting him away on a full-count slider off the plate.
Bard allowed five hits and two walks while striking out four on 94 pitches and told Valentine he wants to pitch deeper into games. The fourth strikeout came against the last batter Bard faced, Delmon Young, and gave him the most K's he's had in six May starts. Tuesday was the only May start in which Bard had more strikeouts than walks.
"Just staying in my delivery better," Bard said. "I made a couple of tweaks, nothing major, but just a couple of things to keep everything on time, to keep my arm in the same slot. I made those tweaks in my side session three days ago and felt really good about it coming out of that."
David Ortiz had two doubles off Verlander, one of them for an RBI, and he hit his 11th homer of the season in the seventh, into the Monster Seats. That was off a lefty, Duane Below, and gave Ortiz a whopping 29 extra-base hits.
Alfredo Aceves also bounced back after allowing two runs in each of his last two appearances, working around some hard-hit balls for his 12th save in 15 chances. A disagreement with home-plate umpire Bill Welke led to no runs.