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The only thing that could dampen a duel between the two best pitchers in the American League, Boston’s Josh Beckett and Detroit’s Justin Verlander, is a little rain. Under a steady drizzle/fog/light rain at Fenway Park Thursday night, both pitchers still delivered quality performances.
Beckett allowed just one run in six innings, but only threw 83 pitches before being pulled from the game with some neck tightness. After the game, reports indicated that Beckett was only pulled as a precaution.
With Beckett out of the game, the Tigers took advantage of Daniel Bard in the eighth, hitting two solo home runs to tie the game 3-3. This all set up the heroics in the bottom of the 9th, where the Red Sox won their sixth straight game 4-3.
Jonathan Papelbon loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth, giving up two singles and a walk, but managed to get out of the inning unscathed after he struck out Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers finally pulled Verlander, who went 8 innings and allowed three runs on six hits. He allowed two home runs (to J.D. Drew and David Ortiz), and struck out nine. Jim Leyland called on Al Alburquerque to shut down the Red Sox, but he failed to do so.
Alburquerque walked Kevin Youkilis and gave up a hit to David Ortiz (he was 3-4), setting up runners at first and third with no outs. Leyland opted to intentionally walk J.D. Drew to load the bases and face Jed Lowrie.
With pinch runner Jose Iglesias on third base, Jed Lowrie hit a bloop to left field after a lengthy at-bat. Because the outfield and infield were both in, the ball landed right in between the left fielder Andy Dirks and shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Iglesias went back to tag just in case, but was forced to run home when the ball landed and was out at home plate, 7-2 (LF-C).
After the strange play, the Sox still had the bases loaded, but now with one out. Carl Crawford, who already had two walkoff hits this month, laced a bases loaded single over the head of Austin Jackson in center field to give the Red Sox another walkoff win, and their sixth straight overall to move three games above .500.
Crawford finished 2-4 to raise his average to .212, but more importantly, he collected his third walk-off hit of the season and appears to slowly be gaining more confidence at the plate.
Crawford would not need to provide the heroics if Bard didn’t allow two solo home runs back-to-back in the eighth inning.
W: Jonathan Papelbon (2-0)
L: Al Alburquerque (0-1)