Sox shuffle, scuffle
Tigers take a bite out of Tavarez, revamped lineup
DETROIT -- The Tigers rolled out the major leagues' most potent offense. The Red Sox rolled out Jeff Bailey, not to be confused with Buddy, Bob, or Beetle.
The hard-line Sox fans undoubtedly will grouse that the team rolled over for the Tigers last night in a 9-2 loss in which David Ortiz played the role of spectator and Julian Tavarez was cast as whipping boy for a Detroit lineup that pummeled him for eight runs in a two-inning span -- three in the fourth and five in the fifth, when Marcus Thames hit a grand slam.
Realists are more apt to concede that Ortiz, especially with a right leg that is likely to hinder him at times the rest of the season, deserves a blow on a midsummer's night. Even with Ortiz in the lineup, the Sox might not have done much more with Tigers rookie Andrew Miller, the 22-year-old lefthander who limited them to three hits and a run over seven innings. There also was the unmistakable feel of a tone-setting play in the third inning, when Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson, after catching the first ball Bailey hit in the big leagues, buried Wily Mo Peña at the plate with a terrific throw.
Instead of an RBI in his first at-bat while subbing for sore-legged Kevin Youkilis, Bailey's debut went into the books as a double play.
"A great throw," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "That was one of the better throws you're ever going to see."
Youkilis's condition -- a strained left quadriceps -- probably is a temporary setback, which is why the Sox summoned Bailey from Pawtucket for the weekend. Ortiz's health appears more worrisome, although he has, for the most part, downplayed its impact on his performance. On Thursday night, he had three hits, including a double, his first extra-base hit in a dozen games.
"I'm feeling it," said Ortiz, who has been circumspect about what ails his leg. "I'll be all right. Some days it's good. Other days, it feels [bad]."
Last night was a planned day off, Francona said. Ortiz, who was elected the starting first baseman on the American League All-Star team, plans to go to San Francisco. He is passing on the Home Run Derby, but on Monday morning is scheduled to unveil a new athletic shoe, the Big Papi 2M Mid, marketed by Reebok. "I'll play in the game," he said last night, "but probably only for a couple of innings."
Francona stacked his lineup with righthanded hitters against Miller, the college teammate of 2006 Red Sox first-round draft pick Daniel Bard at North Carolina. It looked promising when Peña tripled past Granderson to open the third with the game scoreless. But when catcher Mike Rabelo, despite being flipped onto his head by Peña's hard slide, held onto the ball to tag out the Boston behemoth, the roar through
"I think he thought I was going to hit him like a football guy," Peña said. "That's not my game. I slid with my feet, and he just rolled over."
Ortiz overheard the conversation. "You don't want to see that guy hit anybody," Ortiz said, gesturing at Peña. "There would be a funeral."
The Sox eventually scored in the inning when Julio Lugo walked, stole second, and came around on Coco Crisp's single. And when Crisp stole second, the Sox seemed determined to maintain their aggressive edge. "I know it seemed like a big slam-dunk," Francona said of the Granderson throw. "It gets the crowd charged up, but we actually came back and did a pretty good job that inning."
But Dustin Pedroia struck out to end the inning, Miller whiffed Jason Varitek and J.D. Drew after Manny Ramírez's one-out double in the fourth, and an All-Star play by Mike Lowell -- one of 11 All-Stars on these teams -- turned to ashes when the third baseman's throw sailed over first baseman Bailey's head on Gary Sheffield's smash to open the Tigers' fourth.
Magglio Ordonez, who leads the majors in batting, followed with a run-scoring hit, the score was tied, and the rest of the night followed in Old English script. Carlos Guillen also singled, and the next two batters, Sean Casey and Thames, sent Crisp on all-expense-paid tours of the wide expanses of Comerica's center field. Casey's drive advanced Ordonez to third, and Crisp was compelled to make another highlight-reel catch to keep Thames in the park, Ordonez scoring the go-ahead run.
Tavarez hit Rabelo in the backside with a pitch, and Brandon Inge followed with a double that scored Guillen, the inning mercifully ending when Rabelo was cut down at the plate on a relay throw by Lugo after Peña tracked down the ball in left.
There would be no mercy for Tavarez in the fifth. Granderson hit his first pitch into the right-field seats, his 12th home run, making it 4-1. Placido Polanco singled and Tavarez hit another batter, Sheffield, who flipped his bat contemptuously after taking one in the shoulder. A diving stop by Pedroia at second took a hit away from Guillen, but merely delayed Tavarez's fate. Francona had Javier Lopez up in the bullpen and could have summoned him to pitch to the lefthanded-hitting Casey. He decided against it, he said, because if Lopez failed to retire Casey, he'd be faced with blowing out his pen with the game in the fifth.
Instead, Francona elected to have Tavarez walk Casey. But Tavarez left a pitch out over the plate for Thames, who didn't miss, cranking it into the left-field seats to make it 8-1.
"We walk Casey," Francona said, "and pay the ultimate price. We were in a bind, though. Sometimes you run into a situation where your pitcher has to get somebody out, and it worked out about as bad as it could. We actually were hoping to get out of the inning and have him go out there for another."
The eight runs charged to Tavarez were the most he's allowed this season, eclipsing the six he was charged with in a 10-4 loss to the Blue Jays April 24. He has now taken the loss in his last three decisions to fall to 5-7, on a night Jon Lester threw a seven-inning complete game for Pawtucket against Rochester, allowing just two runs on four hits.
"Some of the guys said I was tipping my pitches," Tavarez said. "I don't think like that. I think it was just one of those days where it was an ugly, bad outing. I knew it was going to come sooner or later. I got hit pretty hard today, I can't make any excuses. One mistake cost me four runs.
"[But] I can handle this."
Gordon Edes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.