Red Sox use depth to down Tigers
With Lowell out, Casey leads way with three RBIs in big win
BOSTON -- There are early-season issues to be sure for the defending World Series champions. David Ortiz (3-for-37, .083 average) isn't hitting. Mike Lowell won't play until at least April 25 because of a sprained left thumb. The bullpen, excluding Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon, is going through a tough time.
And the Red Sox, quite simply, haven't gotten into an overall groove yet. To win at this moment, the Sox simply need to find ways. And that's exactly what they did Thursday night at Fenway Park en route to topsy-turvy, 12-6 victory over the Tigers that won't get much of a score in the way of art.
This wasn't pretty, but the Red Sox -- who improved to 5-5 -- were more than happy to take it however they could.
One way was for Sean Casey -- who hadn't been playing much until Lowell's injury -- to step seamlessly into the lineup and drive in three runs. Another way was for Kevin Youkilis to move just as smoothly from first to third in Lowell's absence and make all the plays, be they routine or highlight-worthy.
Though Lowell doesn't enjoy being a spectator, he appreciated the job done by the men who replaced him in the field and at the plate.
"Youk put on a show defensively," said Lowell. "They're both swinging a really good bat. That makes you feel good. We've got depth on this team and guys that can produce and still help us win."
And there's always Manny Ramirez. Manny was Manny in the fourth inning when he ran right through third-base coach DeMarlo Hale's stop sign and scored anyway.
Did Ramirez simply not see Hale?
"I don't know if he did or not," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona with a chuckle. "If he did, he didn't slow down. That was interesting."
Manny was Manny again in the seventh, ripping a two-run double to left-center through a howling wind to turn a one-run lead into a more comfortable 6-3 edge. The lead would go to five runs when Casey belted a two-run single up the middle.
"He's a true professional and he knows how to hit," winning pitcher Tim Wakefield said of Casey. "Obviously he's been doing that a long time."
But the lead that Ramirez and Casey staked the Sox to almost went for naught when Julian Tavarez had a three-run meltdown to start the top of the eighth.
Jonathan Papelbon came on for what was the definition of a save opportunity -- a seemingly sure win in serious danger. The righty did what he does best, getting the final four outs to provide the Red Sox a happy ending.
"Pap was begging us to pitch tonight," Francona said. "I wasn't envisioning it in that situation. It didn't work out exactly how we had it planned, but it worked."
The Red Sox padded their lead in the eighth, sending eight men to the plate in a four-run inning.
Then there was Wakefield getting a win and allowing only one earned run on a night he walked five, hit two batters and threw 109 pitches.
"I felt great," Wakefield said. "Obviously my control wasn't there. Stuff-wise, it was all over the place. I think it was one of those nights I just had a hard time throwing strikes. The ball moved too much."
It all added up to the Red Sox taking the rubber match of this three-game set against the 1-8 Tigers.
Next up for the Sox? A three-game matchup with their age-old rivals, the Yankees, beginning Friday night at Fenway.
They'll do so without Lowell, but with some depth to showcase.
"Obviously [Lowell's] going to be missed, but I think we're still in a pretty good situation," Wakefield said.
Particularly if Youkilis -- who recently set an all-time record for errorless games at first -- continues to sparkle at the hot corner.
"When I was in the game, I think he had six assists," said Wakefield. "The ball [in the first inning] hit the bag and he barehanded it, that was an unbelievable play."
As for the slumping Ortiz?
"I think the biggest thing is just trying to get him to relax," Francona said. "As good a hitter as he is, you know, guys feel it. He understands his responsibility. Sometimes he carries too much weight on his shoulders."
While Ortiz tries to get his swing back on track, Lowell will watch and root for his teammates.
"I know it's April, but there's a lot of important games in April," said Lowell. "It doesn't really matter what month you're in."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.