The Boston Red Sox can now contend for the rights to a title that many of us didn't think we'd ever reach a month ago: Hottest team in the MLB. Boston continued their winning ways as they defeated the Detroit Tigers, 4-3--completing a two-game sweep and winning their sixth straight game. They now sit at 23-20
Tonight's game featured a prime pitching matchup. On the mound for the Red Sox was Josh Beckett, who was looking his fourth win of the season. Meanwhile, Justin Verlander took the the hill for the Tigers, looking to even the series and possibly toss his second no-hitter this season.
Both cruised through the first inning without much trouble, but in the top of the second Beckett ran into a little bit of trouble. After allowing a leadoff walk to Miguel Cabrera, former Red Sox Victor Martinez singled to right to move Cabrera to third, then rookie Andy Dirks drove in the first run of the ballgame on a single to left. 1-0, Tigers. Beckett would load the bases with one out, but escaped the inning without further damage.
The Sox offense would quickly get that run back in the bottom of the second. Kevin Youkilis lead off with a single to right, and was eventually moved to third on a single by David Ortiz. J.D. Drew, who all-in-all was the best player for the Red Sox tonight brought Youk home on a sac-fly. Sox tie it, 1-1.
We flash forward to the fourth inning, where that Drew guy comes back. This time, he connected on a Verlander fastball and crushed it to right field for a solo home run. Sox now up 2-1.
Beckett (6IP, 5H, ER, 2BB, 2K) departed somewhat early after the sixth inning because of "neck tightness" after throwing only 83 pitches. In came Matt Albers, who continued to be a rock in the Sox bullpen with another scoreless outing. We go into the bottom of the seventh, still 2-1.
The Sox got an insurance run off the bat of David Ortiz, who launched a Verlander changeup into the right field bleachers, extending the lead to 3-1.
In the eighth Albers departed for Daniel Bard, who was looking to hold the lead for the closer in the ninth--usually a task he is good at doing, but not so much tonight. Bard faced Brennan Boesch to begin the eigth and gave up a line drive shot that curved around the pesky pole for a home run. Bard wasn't done, either, as Miguel Cabrera decided to join the party--drilling a breaking pitch into the monster seats, tying the game at three all.
After the Sox went quietly in the eighth, Jonathan Papelbon was brought on in the top of the ninth to help preserve the tie. Pap gave up two quick one-out singles to Brandon Inge and Austin Jackson. He then walked Scott Sizemore to the load the bases, still with only one out.
However, when the game's in doubt this year, Pap'll get out of it. Papelbon continued to thrive in bases loaded situations as he punched out Boesch on three high fastballs, two out. He finally escaped the jam when he struck out Cabrera swinging on a 97 MPH heater away. The Red Sox headed into the ninth still all square.
Verlander was lifted to begin the bottom of the inning for a guy who can contend with Salty for the longest name in the majors, Al Albuquerque. Albuquerque began the frame with a leadoff walk to Kevin Youkilis, who was pulled for pinch runner Jose Iglesias. David Ortiz then followed with a single that got Iglesias to third. With no outs, the Tigers didn't take their chances with J.D. Drew, putting him on intentionally. Jed Lowrie seemed to have a game winning single on a short pop-up to left field, but Iglesias, unable to leave the bag before it was clear the ball would drop, was thrown out at home by Andy Dirks, leaving the game tied. Bases chucked, one out.
Sure enough, though, the Red Sox found their hero. In a season that hasn't really gone his way, Carl Crawford has surely been fond of the walk off ball at Fenway. He showed that again Thursday night, as he connected on a walk-off single to center field over the head of Austin Jackson that brought home pinch runner Darnell McDonald (who ran for Ortiz) to win the game. Sox take this one, their sixth straight, 4-3.