April 5, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches during the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
First, let's get this out of the way: Justin Verlander is good. Justin Verlander is ridiculously, incredibly good. Between one of the most dominant curveballs you'll ever see and an overpowering fastball, it's no surprise that the Red Sox were incapable of putting runs on the board.
In fact, they would only manage three baserunners in the eight innings he took the mound for. The first came in the form of David Ortiz, who made good contact and launched a leadoff double to left in the second. Unfortunately, Kevin Youkilis could neither advance the runner nor reach safely on his ground ball to the left side. Ryan Sweeney's weak roller did move Papi on to third, but with Cody Ross getting his knees buckled by one of those curves, it hardly mattered.
The only other time the Sox threatened came in the sixth, when a bit of ole ball from Miguel Cabrera let Dustin Pedroia reach first and Adrian Gonzalez walked to move him into scoring position before David Ortiz struck out to end the threat. Other than that, it was smooth sailing for the Tigers' ace through eight innings.
Jon Lester was not quite as dominant, allowing leadoff baserunner after leadoff baserunner, but always found a way to survive. Inducing three double plays along the way, Lester managed to strand eight of nine baserunners in seven innings of work despite struggling with his control. That last baserunner was the problem, unfortunately. With Lester tiring towards the end of his outing, he just couldn't get that final out in the seventh, surrendering back-to-back doubles to Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila with two outs already on the board.
The lead would grow to two for the tigers in the eighth thanks to some unfortunate pitching from Vicente Padilla, who found the dead center of the plate with a fastball to Austin Jackson. With Ryan Sweeney getting turned around as he approached the wall in right, Jackson was able to race all the way to third, setting up an easy sacrifice fly for Prince Fielder.
The Sox were down, but not out just yet. With Justin Verlander finally out of the game, the Sox were ready to feast on anyone else, even Jose Valverde. Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez both put good swings on Valverde pitches to put runners on the corners with all three outs still available to them. David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis would suceed only in getting Pedroia home, but after Darnell McDonald (pinch running for Gonzalez) stole second, it was Ryan Sweeney cleaning out a splitter and knocking it all the way to the wall in right for a game-tying triple.
Unfortunately, the rally would end there with Cody Ross smashing one directly to short, and with the Sox only tying the game, the Tigers would take advantage of the opportunity for the walkoff. Mark Melancon came in clearly lacking his best stuff, allowing hard contact to three straight batters resulting in one out and two hits. In came Alfredo Aceves to try and escape the situation, but he proved no more capable, hitting Ramon Santiago on the foot with a curveball that induced a checked swing, and then allowing Austin Jackson to slap a single past third base with the infield in for the walkoff single.
It's a disappointing start to the season, but Justin Verlander makes any game a long shot to win. The Sox will have a good opportunity to even things up Saturday as they send Josh Beckett against Doug Fister.