Denver – Justin Verlander knew it was his last batter, and it was a dangerous one.
So the Tigers right-hander reached back for a pair of 100 mph fastballs that blew by Jason Bay and essentially clinched Detroit’s 2-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.
“That’s a horse,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, after the American League Central-leading Tigers avoided a four-game sweep and beat the Red Sox for the first time in seven tries this year. “That’s a brilliant performance. The eighth inning was textbook, No. 1-type pitching. To do what he did in that inning, at that point in the ballgame, there’s not many guys who can do that.”
Bay had homered in each of the first three games in the series, and he had three hits on Wednesday night to help Boston win its third straight. When he came up with two out in the eighth and a runner on second, Verlander knew it would be a bad time to make a mistake.
“That was a big at-bat,” Verlander said. “I was just thinking, ‘I’m not going to give up a game-tying home run in the eighth, when our guys have battled so hard.’ ”
Verlander (13-6) allowed four hits in eight innings, striking out eight and walking one while retiring 16 of the last 19 batters he faced. Ryan Raburn homered for Detroit, and Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his 24th save.
Verlander twice hit No. 9 hitter Chris Woodward with a pitch, but there was none of the animosity that marred Tuesday night’s game and earned suspensions for Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis and Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello.
Clay Buchholz (1-3) allowed five hits in seven innings, walking three and striking out three while giving up Raburn’s homer to go with an unearned run in the fourth.
“As good as Verlander was – and I’m probably exaggerating – I thought Clay was almost one pitch worse,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “We just ran up against one of the better performances you’ll see.”
Buchholz lost his third straight decision, even though he has allowed only three earned runs over 13 innings in his last two starts. He lost to Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia on Saturday.
“I’m picking the wrong pitchers to throw against,” Buchholz said. “The last two guys have been as good as I’ve seen, so you can’t read too deep into it. It’s proven that it’s working, but it’s hard to win games when you’ve got guys throwing like that.”