The Red Sox won their fifth straight game and clinched the series win against Detroit Sunday, downing the Tigers 4-3.
While the second half of the day's double header will feature a battle of the aces between Josh Beckett and Justin Verlander, the first half featured a pitching matchup that seemed entirely lopsided. Clay Buchholz entered the game on riding a five-game hot streak that had seen him allow six runs in 33 innings in May, dropping his ERA by two whole points. Andrew Oliver, the Tigers' starter, was making the first start of his season after a dismal MLB debut in 2010.
And, for at least the first five innings, the game went largely according to script. The Red Sox put three men on base and scored in the first, then found homers from Mike Cameron and Dustin Pedroia in the second and third innings. Clay Buchholz, meanwhile, faced just one man over the minimum and seemed ready to cruise through the game. Even entering the sixth, a solo shot from Andy Dirks was the only blemish against him.
Unfortunately for the Sox, Buchholz went off script in the sixth inning. While the solo shot allowed to Brennan Boesch wasn't enough to take away his win, the hard-hit double past a diving Drew Sutton combined with a two-out line drive off the bat off Jhonny Peralta was. Buchholz finally picked got Don Kelly to fly out to end both the inning and his night as he returned to the dugout, flinging his glove violently against the wall.
With a second game just hours away, the Red Sox had to conserve their bullpen as best as possible, and so they went looking for two innings from Matt Albers. While Sox fans might still remember his allowing five earned runs against the Cubs all too well, Albers earned some amount of redemption by holding the tie until the ninth, retiring the heart of the Detroit order with surprising ease.
The Red Sox entered the top of the ninth facing the unfortunate reality of having the bottom two men in their order up to start the inning--a worse situation than usual with the lineup having been cobbled together to face a lefty. So it was that Terry Francona turned to the bench against Jose Valverde. First up was J.D. Drew, who worked a decent plate appearance but had his bat break on what seemed like a strong swing, resulting in a relatively lazy fly ball out.
Up next was David Ortiz, who entered the game with a perfect career line off of Valverde: 1-for-1 with a home run. Seemingly cognizant of this, Valverde worked around Ortiz for the first six pitches of the at bat, but with the count finally running full, he decided to challenge the slugger. Big mistake. With the pitch in his wheelhouse, Ortiz swung hard, and sent the ball just over the top of the wall in right to give the Sox the 4-3 lead. With Jonathan Papelbon looking entirely dominant in the ninth, the Sox returned to the locker room to prepare for the second game of the double-header with a five-game winning streak at their backs.