Tigers' rally falls short in loss to Red Sox
Bats erase four-run, two-run deficits before succumbing
BOSTON -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland worried Monday afternoon his team "could be flying into a hornet's nest" in Fenway Park against a Red Sox team coming off a series sweep to the Yankees. As it turned out, they survived the early stings, but couldn't land the final swat.
"We battled. We had our shot," Leyland said after the 6-5 loss Monday night. "We had a shot -- a good shot, really -- and just couldn't quite get it done."
It was a shot they seemed unlikely to have, but likely to convert. A 4-0 deficit after two innings, a workhorse starting pitcher knocked out after four, didn't prove fatal once Marcus Thames' seventh-inning double tied the game. Even Nick Green's go-ahead sacrifice fly didn't quite finish off the Tigers once they put the potential tying run at third base, the go-ahead run at second with one out in the eighth.
Once Ramon Ramirez and Jonathan Papelbon stranded both runners, however, their chance to steal a game had passed.
"We battled all game. We came back to tie it up," Adam Everett said. "To have a chance to take the lead right there, at least tie the game up, it's kind of disheartening, because we played well. They beat us. We didn't beat ourselves."
The Red Sox beat up on Edwin Jackson to take command early in the game and take out Detroit's All-Star starter after four innings for the second time in his past three starts. It wasn't just the runs (from Dustin Pedroia's two-run homer in the opening inning to Green's second-inning solo shot) -- it was the pitch count on Jackson, who again topped the century mark before he got out of the fourth.
Twenty-three of Jackson's 104 pitches were fouled off, while nine others went for base hits. His six swinging strikes induced was only one more than his season low.
"I just didn't get the job done," said Jackson, who said he tried to be aggressive against a Red Sox squad that has hit him in the past. "There isn't really one particular thing. The main thing is, as a starting pitcher, you go out and you try to get the job done. Either you do, or you don't."
Said Leyland: "He charged them. They charged him."
At that point, Leyland wasn't just worried about this game, but wondering about the impact on his bullpen for the rest of this four-game series. When Jackson lasted just four innings two starts ago in an extra-inning battle in Cleveland, the bullpen was on its way to 12 innings of work over two games.
Though Fu-Te Ni gave up a Jason Bay solo homer after an early Tigers rally to put the Red Sox back up two at 5-3, Ni's two innings saved the rest of the relief corps from a long night, not to mention keeping the game within reach.
"Those guys have to do a job," Leyland said. "You can't use [Brandon] Lyon and [Bobby] Seay and [Fernando] Rodney every night. It just doesn't work like that. Other guys have to do a job, and they did a pretty good job tonight."
Once the Tigers erased that deficit after Red Sox starter Brad Penny exited, the bullpen became vitally important. And it came within a few feet of having a lead to protect.
After Gerald Laird's third double in two days greeted Manny Delcarmen, Everett sacrificed him to third. Delcarmen fanned Curtis Granderson and came within a strike of doing the same to Placido Polanco before the Tigers' second baseman came through with his second clutch RBI single in as many days.
Marcus Thames, too, had a two-strike count before lofting a drive deep to left. The Tigers didn't think it was headed out, but they couldn't be sure.
"The way it sounded, it didn't have that sound like some of his balls normally do," Granderson said. "But here in this ballpark, you know it's got a chance."
The ball fell shy of the top of the Green Monster, missing a go-ahead homer. After an intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera, Ramirez retired Carlos Guillen.
Two seventh-inning singles from the bottom of the Red Sox lineup, the latter a hit-and-run liner through the middle from Casey Kotchman, set up Green's fly ball to center off Zach Miner (5-2). Still, Ordonez's leadoff double in the top of the eighth gave Detroit one more chance.
Once Ramirez hit Brandon Inge with a pitch and Laird laid down a sacrifice bunt, both runners were in scoring position for Everett, who stayed in face Ramirez.
"He was 1-for-2 off him," Leyland said, "and I thought he'd at least put in play and we could get one run for sure. We didn't get it."
Everett, a clutch hitter early in the year, couldn't summon that contact again, striking out on three pitches to bring up Granderson with two outs.
"Just put the ball in play," Everett said. "The guys are playing back in the middle of the infield. You keep it away from the corners, obviously, but you've just got to put the ball in play."
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon entered to face Granderson, who hoped his popup behind home plate would go foul. Instead, it fell into Victor Martinez's mitt to end the threat.
"We battled back. We had our shot," Leyland said. "We're a ground ball in the infield from tying it, or a base hit away from taking the lead and winning it. That's just the way it goes."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.