Carl Crawford may not have the best numbers for the Red Sox, but nobody has come through in the clutch more than the Sox' biggest free agent acquisition. For the third time in May, Crawford provided the walk-off hit for the Red Sox, propelling them to a 4-3 win over the Tigers.
The battle of the aces between Justin Verlander and Josh Beckett was nearly all it was cracked up to be. In many ways, Justin Verlander was the better pitcher on the night, looking unhittable at times. Even when the Sox pushed their first run across, they had to do so by getting tricky. After Kevin Youkilis singled to lead off the inning, David Ortiz hit a weak grounder to the right side of the infield that would often result in two outs. But Kevin Youkilis was off and running with the pitch, drawing Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta out of position. The ball skipped through the hole untouched, letting Ortiz reach first and Youkilis get to third with no outs to set up J.D. Drew's sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, Josh Beckett wasn't quite as impressive, but found himself getting better results. Right before the Sox scored in the bottom of the second, the Tigers drew first blood, as Beckett gave up a walk and two singles to the first three batters in the second inning, eventually loading the bases with one out. He would escape without further damage, however, thanks in part to Victor Martinez declining to test Carl Crawford's arm on a flyball out. The Tigers would make a lot more hard contact throughout the night, but thanks to some excellent defense from the Red Sox--especially J.D. Drew--he found himself otherwise unharmed.
Verlander probably only made two real mistakes in the game, but found himself punished severely for both of them. It was again J.D. Drew doing the honors in the fourth inning, turning a middle-middle fastball into a no-doubt homer to right field and giving the Sox the 2-1 lead. Next time it was David Ortiz in the sixth, knocking a 2-1 changeup over the bullpens and into the bleachers to make it 3-1.
With Josh Beckett unable to keep loose in the cold weather, the Red Sox elected to turn to the bullpen in the seventh inning. The immediate results were positive, with Matt Albers striking out two in an impressive scoreless inning. But when Daniel Bard came in, things changed fast. Brennan Boesch launched his second pitch of the inning around Pesky's Pole to cut the lead to one run, and then three pitches later Miguel Cabrera tied it up with a moonshot over the Green Monster. Bard retired the next three batters, but the damage had certainly been done.
After the Red Sox went down in order in the bottom of the eighth, Red Sox fans would have to sweat out quite the dramatic inning. After taking a hard-hit ball off of his leg in the process of recording the first out, Jonathan Papelbon would allow the next three men to reach, loading the bases with just one out. But with the adrenaline flowing, Papelbon again shut down Detroit's late-inning hopes, Striking out Brennan Boesch with three straight overpowering fastballs, and then beating Miguel Cabrera with a 97 MPH heater away to retire the side.
With their closer giving them a shot to win the game, the Red Sox took full advantage. Kevin Youkilis led off the inning by drawing a walk from Al Alburquerque, and pinch runner Jose Iglesias moved to third when David Ortiz singled to right. The Tigers elected to walk J.D. Drew to load the bases, which proved the right move when, after a 10-pitch at bat, Jed Lowrie popped up to left field. Andy Dirks came in as Brandon Inge ran out, but neither could get to the ball. Unfortunately for Jose Iglesias and the Sox, though, he could not take off from third until the ball fell in, and Dirks fired home in time for the force out.
Kevin Youkilis and Jonathan Papelbon had to retreat to the dugout after running out to celebrate a possible walk-off, but they wouldn't have to wait for long. Already the author of two walkoff wins for the Red Sox, Carl Crawford came to the plate looking to make it three. He did just that on the third pitch, smacking a long line drive to center over the head of Austin Jackson, giving the Red Sox their sixth straight win.