A controversial call that triggered a three run Tiger eighth inning that eventually got manager John Farrell the boot brought down the Red Sox at Comerica Park on Sunday afternoon.
Early on it looked like another typical Felix Doubront outing. Doubront walked Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter to open the bottom of the first and gave up a ground rule double to Miguel Cabrera, scoring Jackson and mercifully holding Hunter at third due to the ground rule double.
Prince Fielder grounded out to score Hunter. It would have been worse had it not been for two outstanding fielding plays in a row. Jose Iglesias snared a hot grounder off the bat of Victor Martinez and threw him out from his knees at third. That’s right, Iggy gunned down V-Mart from third base on his knees. Jacoby Ellsbury ended the inning and contained the damage by making a beautiful diving grab of a Jhonny Peralta right center field gapper. Yes, the Tigers were up 2-0 but it was a Sox victory nonetheless.
During a usual Justin Verlander year, a 2-0 lead in the first would have been enough to start the party at Comerica Park. This has not been a usual Justn Verlander year. Verlander is 8-5 with a 3.85 ERA and he has been scuffling of late, losing two in row before facing Boston. Sunday afternoon was no different.
He gave up two runs in the top of the second (a Ryan Lavarnway single to score Mike Napoli and an Ellsbury sac fly to score Stephen Drew) and single runs in both the third (a Napoli ground out to score Pedroia) and fourth (a Shane Victorino ground out to score Lavarnway). He only pitched an unthinkable 5 innings, threw 112 pitches (69 for strikes).
Likewise, Doubront was in and out of trouble during the course of his five innings of work, eventually leaving the game with a 4-3 lead. Boston kept him in the contest with some stellar defense. Iglesias made two more standout plays at third and Victorino made a great play to end an inning with very little room to make the catch in the right field corner.
Andrew Bailey failed again in the seventh in a relief role, allowing two hits in a set up role. He gave up two singles and immediately got the hook. Andrew Miller got Victor Martinez to chase a down and away two seamer to strike out. Miller was pounding the ball inside but missed on a crucial pitch to Jhonny Peralta hitting him in the knee to force in Austin Jackson.
Controversy erupted in the bottom of the eighth inning when Avisali Garcia hit a long drive to right to Daniel Nava, who had just replaced Victorino (back tightness). Nava made the catch at the warning track. The ball rolled up his wrist as he made the transfer to throw the ball in. Second base umpire Mike DiMuro said that Nava dropped the ball, putting Garcia on second base with none out. Nava raced in from right field and met DiMuro at the same time manager John Farrell engaged DiMuro. Nava backed off. Farrell did not. An intense exchange ensued and Farrell got tossed, his first of the year and a justified one. He got his money’s worth.
Next Bryan Holaday sacrifice bunted and Miller’s throw pulled Dustin Pedroia off the first base bag. Miller walked Jackson to load the bases, giving way to Alex Wilson with the bases loaded with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth. Hunter hit a long sac fly to Ellsbury to score Garcia. Detroit fans were gleeful. The Sox were in a foul mood.
Wilson intentionally walked Cabrera and was replaced by Craig Breslow with one out and two on. Prince Fielder rapped a single up the middle to score Holaday and Jackson to put the Tigers up 7-4. The Sox got a double play to end the inning but the damage was done. Three runs by Detroit in the bottom of the eighth had sealed their fate. It was a great game until the DiMuro call.
The Sox rallied in the ninth for a run when Pedroia singled and scampered home on a Jonny Gomes double but Hunter made a spectacular backhanded diving snag off the bat of Drew to end the game, icing the 7-5 Tigers win.
With the win the Tigers won three of four against Boston. The Red Sox head to Boston to start a long homestand Tuesday against the red hot Blue Jays and another series against the San Diego Padres before leaving for a long west coast swing.