Red Sox lose Lowell, then the game
Offense never clicks, giving Tigers first win of 2008
BOSTON -- A bit of inevitability seeped into Fenway Park on Wednesday night, and the Red Sox were left to pay the price. With one of the most talented rosters in either league, the Tigers weren't going to stay winless for much longer.
The Tigers officially started to climb out of their 0-7 start, parlaying a four-run rally in the top of the fourth against lefty Jon Lester into a 7-2 victory over the Red Sox. Brandon Inge iced the game with a two-run single through a drawn-in infield against Bryan Corey in the top of the eighth.
After stifling the Tigers, 5-0, in Tuesday's home opener, the Sox couldn't get the big hits they needed against Jeremy Bonderman or the Detroit bullpen.
"Obviously, we haven't swung the bats real well yet," said catcher Jason Varitek. "We've got to keep grinding out at-bats to continue to get better."
In addition to the loss, the Sox got some bad news early in the game when third baseman Mike Lowell had to leave with a sprained left thumb. He sustained the injury making a diving stop on Pudge Rodriguez to open the game, then played one more inning of defense before being removed. Lowell is day to day, but all but certain not to play on Thursday night.
"I hope he doesn't miss any action, but if he does, we've got to pick up the slack," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "He's definitely one of our big bats."
It was an odd outing for Lester in that he didn't strike out anyone over his 5 1/3 innings. That marked the first time in 30 career appearances that he didn't issue a strikeout. He allowed five hits and four runs, throwing 97 pitches, 60 of which were for strikes.
"They're good hitters," Lester said of the Tigers. "I had a lot of pitches tonight that I thought were good pitches, and they fouled them off. I had a lot of foul balls, which drives up your pitch count. It didn't help with four walks."
The Red Sox got off to a promising start with a rally in the bottom of the second. Sean Casey, pinch-hitting for the injured Lowell, got it started with a one-out single up the middle against Bonderman. After a walk by J.D. Drew, Varitek reached on an error by second baseman Placido Polanco. Jacoby Ellsbury then drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 1-0. Julio Lugo increased the lead to two runs with an RBI single to right.
Nobody could have guessed it at the time, but that would be the last time all night that the Red Sox would touch the scoreboard.
"It seemed like nothing clicked," Pedroia said. "Our hits didn't pile in a row, so when that stuff happens, you don't score many runs. We've got to do a better job of doing that."
Lester cruised over the first three innings but ran into big trouble in the fourth. He brought most of his problems on himself by walking Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen with one out. Edgar Renteria followed with a two-run double to left to tie it at 2.
Marcus Thames swiftly untied it by launching a two-run homer into the Monster Seats, giving the Tigers a 4-2 lead.
"Just missed a few, and Edgar hit a cutter and Thames hit a curveball," said Varitek. "I really thought Jon threw the ball much better than the linescore. He was just a ground ball away from getting out of it."
Lester was hoping to build off his last start, in Oakland -- a win -- when he fired 6 2/3 innings and didn't allow a run.
But he thought the dropoff in performance had more to do with the opponent than his actual stuff.
"They're a very difficult team," Lester said. "At times they were very aggressive, and at times they were very patient. It varied from at-bat to at-bat with each guy. I got a lot of first-pitch contact, early-in-the-count contact, and that helped out a little bit, but the guys that were patient just battled."
One thing the Tigers were in this one was desperate.
"I thought we had a good approach," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "I thought we laid off balls that some of the time we'd be swinging at early on. We finally got some timely hits. Edgar got a couple of big hits, Inge had a big hit, obviously Marcus a big blow. That's more like us."
As for the 4-5 Red Sox, they are trying to be more like themselves also but they simply haven't clicked yet.
One thing they didn't do, however, was quit. Down 7-2 in the bottom of the ninth and facing Tigers closer Todd Jones, Drew led off with a single. Alex Cora, pinch-hitting with two outs, singled to left-center. Then Pedroia worked a walk to load them up for Kevin Youkilis. If Youkilis somehow could have gotten on, it would have loaded the bases for David Ortiz.
But Youkilis popped up to short left field, and Renteria tracked it down, giving the Tigers a much-needed win.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.