A dramatic ninth inning saw the Red Sox mount a comeback from down 2-0 only to lose in the bottom half as the Tigers staged a rally of their own to walk off with a 3-2 win.
The game began as a classic pitchers' duel between Jon Lester and Justin Verlander, with Verlander seemingly having the upper hand for most of it. While Lester managed to dodge damage from numerous leadoff hitters, picking up three double plays along the way, Verlander cruised with an untouchable curveball and his usual overpowering fastball.
The breakthrough for Detroit came in the seventh when, with two outs, Lester surrendered a pair of doubles to Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. That advantage would double in the eighth after Vicente Padilla threw a dead-center fastball to Austin Jackson, who cleared it out for a leadoff triple.
While the Sox staged their big comeback, culminating in Ryan Sweeney's two-out triple to right field which tied the game at 2-2, the bullpen once again fell short in the ninth. Mark Melancon allowed hard contact to all three batters he faced, letting two of them reach base, and Alfredo Aceves loaded the bases by hitting Ramon Santiago. With one out and all the fielders in, Austin Jackson managed to slap a ball past a diving Kevin Youkilis at third, bringing the winning run home and sending the Red Sox to 0-1.
Impatient at the plate: The last thing a team wants to do when up against a truly dominant pitcher is to make it easy on him by swinging early and at bad pitches. That's exactly what the Sox did time and again. Escaping the first inning on just nine pitches, Verlander would cruise through the first seven on under 95 tosses before being treated to another nine pitch frame in the eighth.
If the Sox had gotten to the Tigers' bullpen earlier, this may have been a different game. When Verlander is on like he was today, you just have to try and get past him to the next guy.
Up-and-down Lester: While Lester left the game with seven innings of one-run ball to his name, he was not at his absolute best, never recording a clean inning and surviving largely on double plays. It's still an encouraging start for a guy who too often seems to not show up until May, but it maybe wasn't as good as the box score suggests.
Bad bullpen: The focus for tomorrow will of course fall on the bullpen which allowed two runs in two innings, and the blown save of Alfredo Aceves. It doesn't help that the main competition for that closer role was the one who allowed the first two baserunners to reach to begin with.
Still, it's a long season, and two innings do not make or break a relief corps. Franklin Morales looked good in his short appearance, and Mark Melancon is a talented pitcher even if that didn't shine through. Hopefully as things shake out and everyone starts feeling more comfortable with their role, the unit will come together and produce better results.