Tavarez fires Game 1 gem at Tigers
Right-hander allows one run over seven innings to lead Sox
BOSTON -- You can call Julian Tavarez the rain man of the Red Sox. Three times this season, his starts have been rescheduled due to unforgiving skies. But there was no moisture beneath the clouds on Thursday, and Tavarez, taking his turn one day later than planned, dried up Detroit's bats and lifted the Sox to a a 2-1 victory in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader.
In Tavarez's strongest start of the season, he limited the Tigers to four hits and a run over seven innings. The rubber-armed righty walked four and struck out three, running his record to 2-4 while lowering his ERA to 5.59.
Though he had to sit around and wait after Wednesday's rainout, that was hardly going to faze Tavarez, who takes as much joy as anyone in the simple fact of putting on a Major League uniform every day.
"I grew up playing ball," said Tavarez. "The only thing I did [growing up] was play ball in the street. That's the only thing I know how to do. To me, everything is mental. My mind is always ready for anything. I'm always like, 'I'm ready, I'm ready to play.' It doesn't matter if it's 3 in the morning."
On a day Sox manager Terry Francona needed 18 innings out of his pitching staff, he was thrilled by Tavarez's work in the early game.
"We'll take seven," Francona said. "He just likes to pitch. He's really appreciative of his starts or his relief appearances, just being able to pitch in the Major Leagues. It's very refreshing when you talk to him."
Normally, a starter would leave a game with nerves leading just 2-1 after seven innings. But if one trend has developed with the Red Sox this season, it's the lights-out crew that takes care of the eighth and ninth.
Hideki Okajima (0.46 ERA) continued his torrid stretch of pitching with a 1-2-3 eighth and Jonathan Papelbon (1.26 ERA) worked the ninth for save No. 11.
"They did what they were supposed to do," said Francona. "It's so nice to be able to get to the eighth and feel like, regardless of what the score is, you're going to win. It doesn't necessarily always work out that way, but we should have a lot of confidence in the way those guys are throwing. I know our team does."
On a day runs were precious, the Sox got a rally going in the first when Coco Crisp struck a single to left off last-minute Tigers starter Zach Miner. Then, there was a bizarre fielder's choice to short off the bat of David Ortiz. With the Ortiz shift on, Carlos Guillen fielded the ball on the second-base side of the bag and then missed the tag on Crisp before firing to first to get the out.
With a lull in the action after the play, Crisp noticed that nobody was covering third and he scampered there safely. Manny Ramirez followed with an RBI single to left to make it 1-0.
It was the ultimate heads-up move by Crisp, which earned him the ultimate compliment from his manager.
"That's a play you see [Derek] Jeter make," Francona said. "You never know what's enough or what's too much or what's not enough, so you play the game correctly and try to be heads up. That's a good play to see, though."
Boston came back with another rally in the third. Julio Lugo led off by reaching on an error by Guillen. Ortiz drew a walk and Kevin Youkilis cranked a single to right to make it 2-0.
Tavarez cruised through the first four innings, but then ran into some trouble in the fifth. With two on and two outs, Placido Polanco produced an RBI single to center to cut the deficit to a run. A walk to Gary Sheffield loaded the bases with the dangerous Magglio Ordonez at the plate. But Tavarez got the out he needed, as Ordonez drifted a fly ball to Crisp in center.
"When I walked [Sheffield], I tip my hat to him," said Tavarez. "He fought really hard for that at-bat. I would rather take my chances with Magglio Ordonez. Even though Magglio's a great hitter, too, I'd rather take my chances with him and not with Sheff."
And once Tavarez gave way to the bullpen, he felt like there was little chance he'd be in anything but the win column.
"Jonathan, we call him 'Gasolina,'" said Tavarez. "This guy goes six, seven days without pitching and then he goes out there and throws 95, 96 without walking anybody. No panic with Pap. Once the game gets to the ninth inning, it's over. That's how we see it with Jonathan."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.