07/12/2003 11:15 PM ET
Tigers fall to Sox in extra innings
Roney's strong outing not enough against Sox
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Rap stars Eminem and 50 Cent played more hits at Ford Field Saturday night than Pedro Martinez and Matt Roney gave up across the street at Comerica Park. But a pair of bombs and a couple of misses turned their pitching duel into a extended session before Johnny Damon became Boston's superman.
Carlos Peña's RBI double off the top of the left-field fence in the bottom of the eighth nullified Trot Nixon's tie-breaking solo home run in the top of the inning. Not until Damon's 11th-inning single through a drawn-in infield did the tie break again, sealing Boston's fifth straight win with a 4-2 victory.
"We had an opportunity to win, but we couldn't get it done," Peña said. "Everybody wants to, but things don't pan out the way you want. We battled, though, and they had to use all of their pitchers trying to beat us. We won't be defeated easily."
It was certainly tougher than Boston's 6-4 win at Fenway Park June 26, for which both Roney and Martinez had amends to make. Roney was yanked that day with two outs in the fourth following five Boston runs on seven hits. Martinez nearly blew a 6-1 lead, leaving in the seventh after four runs on seven hits.
Both of them ended up Saturday with a run on four hits -- Roney over 6 2/3 innings, Martinez over seven. Martinez struck out eight Tigers for the second time this season, while Roney fanned a career-high seven batters.
"You want to talk about outstanding," manager Alan Trammell said. "I can't say enough about Matt Roney against the top hitting team in baseball. He deserved better."
Only seven Roney pitches left the infield in fair territory. One of them was a Damon solo homer in the fifth, Boston's only extra-base hit until Nixon's shot off of Jamie Walker.
Damon's homer was one of the few Roney changeups that the Red Sox hit with success.
"Matt Roney was outstanding," Red Sox manager Grady Little said. "He had good command, his changeup was outstanding and his sinking fastball was tough. This kid has got a good arm. He's just another piece of their artillery that's going to make them a good ballclub in the future."
Roney has allowed a lone run on five hits in 13 2/3 innings over his two home starts this year. "My changeup was working," he said. "My breaking ball was giving me that third pitch I didn't have last time I faced them. I was getting a lot more pitches over for strikes. It was a lot better outing this time than last."
Martinez gave up an Alex Sanchez triple leading off the first inning, then retired the next 15 batters. He struck out Warren Morris and Peña -- the latter in an 11-pitch battle -- then induced a Kevin Witt flyout to end the first-inning threat.
"It's crazy. That's how good he is," Peña said. "Those pitches are not easy to hit. All I had to do is put the ball in play. I fouled off a lot of them, but I'd rather just hit a little dribbler and score a run. That last pitch was a cutter right into my hands."
Walker bailed Roney out by striking out Jason Varitek to end the seventh, but he couldn't finish off Nixon leading off the eighth. Working back to a full count, Walker lost a ball high and over the plate. Nixon belted it into the Red Sox bullpen in right field.
It's a sight that's becoming almost at home in Detroit as Marshall Mathers. Nixon's homer was the 14th of his career against the Tigers, half of them at Comerica Park since it opened in 2000. He hit three others at Tiger Stadium before it closed.
Alan Embree seemingly sent the Tigers down in order, but Morris beat Embree to the base on a ground ball to first. Morris stole second and took third when Varitek's throw sailed into center field. Embree fell behind 2-0 on Peña, who seemingly belted a 3-1 delivery for a go-ahead homer. The ball hit near the top of the temporary fence, about 385 feet away, easily scoring Morris but denying Detroit the lead.
"He throws so hard," Peña said. "I was just thinking to get a good hit and put a solid swing on it. But it's so hard to stay under control in those situations."
The Tigers nearly had another game-winning homer. This time Damon denied them, not the fence. Nixon lost Andres Torres' 10th-inning liner in the lights as it bounced past him in right field and all the way to the wall. Damon tracked it down quickly enough that Torres was held at third at the last second.
"If Nixon gets it, I've got a chance there," Torres said. "But [Damon] got there quick."
Former Tiger Todd Jones (2-0), pitching at Comerica Park for the second time this year with his second team, made Detroit remember him in his best form. He intentionally walked Dmitri Young, struck out Morris on three pitches, intentionally walked Peña to load the bases, then ended the threat by fanning Witt. Both critical strikeouts came on high heat.
Then the Red Sox pounced. Kevin Millar smacked a 1-2 pitch from Fernando Rodney (0-1) off the left-field fence and reached third on a passed ball. A Bill Mueller walk put runners at the corners with one out. Damon's speed forced the Tigers to move the infield in instead of positioning for a double play.
Again Rodney forged ahead 0-2 in the count, but Damon lined a fastball back up the middle.
Varitek crushed Rodney's next offering deep to center field, forcing Torres to make a spinning, tumbling catch in full retreat on the warning track before Mueller tagged up to score.
Like the rest of the game, it was a highlight Tigers play, but in defeat.
"He hit it hard and I was in," Torres said. "I didn't know how I would get there. I just tried to break hard. I just got there on time."
The Red Sox have won all six meetings with the Tigers this year and seven straight dating back to last season. The last three have come by two runs each, a positive note in a sad song.
Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not
subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its