One day after Tim Wakefield hypnotized the Tigers to sleep with his dancing knuckle ball, Clay Buchholz woke them up with the smell of blood. In the second inning, Gary Sheffield laced a ball off of Buchholz for a single. Buchholz was okay, and got out of the inning unscathed, but the wound left the smell of blood drifting across Comerica Park. The sleepy Tigers took the field in the top of the third, and slowly the aroma wafted past their noses. Slowly their whiskers twitched at the detection of the scent, and their excitement rose. The once sleeping Tiger lifted its head, stretched and let out a fearsome roar.
Claws fully extended, the Tigers came up to bat in the bottom of the scoreless 3rd inning. By the end of the inning, all nine batters had been to the plate, seven of them reached first base, and 4 of them had crossed home. Buchholz returned to the dugout, alive, but tattered and torn. The Sox fought back in the fourth with a 2 run home run by Kevin Youkilis, but the Tigers were not done with Buchholz yet, scoring one more run off of him in the fourth inning on 3 consecutive singles. Buchholz was finished, nothing left but bones strewn across the lair.
The Sox still had fight left in them and were able to score 2 more runs in the 5th inning as Tigers' starter Armando Galarraga wore down as well. Galarraga surrendered a lead off walk to Jason Varitek and hit Julio Lugo to put the first two batters on. A Jed Lowrie sacrifice fly, and a David Ortiz single pulled the Sox back within one run with the score now Tigers 5, Red Sox 4.
There has been discussion about how Julian Tavarez has not pitched in a long time, and without regular work, he'll become rusty and ineffective. That no longer needs to be debated. Sent in to help the vanquished Buchholz, Tavares was as rusty as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz (pre-oil can). Terry Francona gave him the entire 5th inning to manage, and he managed to turn that into three singles, a double, and three more Detroit runs. When a Tiger eats, he gets tired and goes off to rest and digest, which is what Detroit wandered off into the jungle to do. Meanwhile, the Red Sox, faced with a daunting 8-4 deficit, did not give in but rather continued to chip away.
In the 6th inning, Youkilis hit his second home run of the day, this time a solo shot, and in the 7th inning, it was Mike Lowell's turn for heroics. With two on and two out, Lowell ripped his third home run of the season into the left field stands to tie the game at eight. Then in the 8th inning with two outs and runners on first and second, Tito had a hunch and pinch hit Dustin Pedroia for Jed Lowrie who was 0-3 with a sacrifice fly up to that point. Pedroia did not let Tito down and hit a single to bring in JD Drew from second base to put the red Sox on top for the first time in the game, 9-8.
Hideki Okajima held the Tigers scoreless in the 8th inning, with some help from a questionable base running move. With runners on first and second, the result of back to back singles, one out and Gary Sheffield at the plate, Tigers' manager, Jim Leyland, sent the runners on a 3-2 pitch. Sheffield swung with enough force to tear down a small building, but missed for out number two, and Varitek fired down to third base to nail Magglio Ordonez to end the inning.
So, Red Sox fans everywhere sat back, put their feet up, and said, "Papelbon is coming in, this one is over". Well, not so fast. Matthew Joyce, playing in only the second big league game of his career, tried to check his swing on a Papelbon changeup and made contact with the ball. The ball lazily rolled out onto the field like a well executed bunt, and Joyce easily reached first base. Next up was old pal Edgar Renteria who hit a weak grounder to short. Lugo panicked and tried to rush in order to possibly get the lead runner at second, and bobbled the ball for an error. Ivan Rodriguez bunted the runners to 2nd and 3rd, and Curtis Granderson grounded out. So, with 2 outs, Placido Polanco, who had a hot bat all night, stepped up. Papelbon threw him three straight balls, before finally getting two strikes to even the count. His final pitch of the night was a fastball that jammed Polanco. Polanco swung and shattered his bat on the pitch. As parts of the bat flew everywhere, the ball lofted over Lugo's head and landed safely in shallow left field.
The Tigers had won. They loped off into the grass to lick their paws and digest their meal.
But, the Red Sox went back into the dugout, and loaded both barrels of their big game shotgun (also known as Josh Beckett). Tonight, the Tiger hunt commences.
(Baseball photos courtesy of ESPN) (Shere Kahn image courtesy of Animated-Views)