Red Sox Lose Opener in Detroit Depite 9th Inning Comeback

Red Sox rally against Valverde but fall in 9th

By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
      DETROIT (AP) – Jon Lester matched Justin Verlander for most of
the day, and the Boston Red Sox even scored a couple runs off Jose
Valverde.

      It wasn't enough.
      Austin Jackson hit a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the
ninth inning and the Detroit Tigers overcame Valverde's blown save
to beat the Red Sox 3-2 in Thursday's opener. Jon Lester pitched
seven solid innings, but Boston manager Bobby Valentine lost in his
return to the major leagues.

      Valentine replaced Terry Francona following the team's 7-20
September slide that cost the Red Sox a playoff spot last year.
      “There was a lot I saw that I liked. Lester was terrific. He
did just what he needed to do,” Valentine said. “Verlander was
very good. A lot of pitches on the outside corner were perfect
pitches. We knew he was good and he's still good if anyone is
wondering.”

      Verlander, last year's AL MVP and Cy Young winner, was dominant
for eight innings and left with a 2-0 lead. But Valverde (1-0) blew
a save for the first time in 52 chances, a streak that included 49
in a row last season.

      The Boston rally in the ninth, however, merely gave Detroit a
chance to win it in more dramatic fashion.

      With one out in the Tigers' ninth, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila
singled off Mark Melancon (0-1), and Ramon Santiago was hit by a
pitch from Alfredo Aceves. Jackson followed with a sharp grounder
past diving third baseman Nick Punto.

      Detroit's Prince Fielder singled his first time up for the AL
Central champions and added a sacrifice fly in the eighth after
Jackson tripled.

      Verlander allowed two hits, walked one and struck out seven in a
sparkling return to the mound at Comerica Park. But David Ortiz hit
a sacrifice fly off Valverde, and Ryan Sweeney's two-out triple off
the wall in the right-field corner tied it.

      Lester allowed a run and six hits. He struck out four and walked
three.

      “I kept my team in the game. It was kind of a grind for me
today,” Lester said. “Verlander is Verlander. He's tough. He
didn't give us a lot of opportunities today and when he did, he
shut us down.”

      Detroit put a runner on base in every inning but didn't score
until the seventh, when Peralta and Avila doubled with two outs.
Fielder had a sacrifice fly the next inning.

      Fielder, who signed a $214 million, nine-year deal with the
Tigers in the offseason, pulled a 3-2 pitch past second base his
first time up for a single. Detroit put its leadoff man on base
four times in the first five innings, but Lester managed to induce
double plays in the first and second.

      Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera moved from first base to third to
make room for Fielder. His day at the hot corner was uneventful
until the sixth, when he lost his balance while catching Jacoby
Ellsbury's foul pop and fell into a backward somersault.

      Cabrera held onto the ball and came up smiling, but Dustin
Pedroia followed with a sharp grounder to third that Cabrera
misplayed for an error. Verlander struck out Ortiz with two on to
end that threat.

      Fielder hit into a double play of his own in the sixth.

      Verlander began the game by getting Ellsbury to hit a weak
flyball to left in a matchup of the top two vote-getters in last
year's AL MVP race. According to STATS LLC, it was the first time
the top two MVP finishers faced each other in a pitcher-batter
matchup the following season since 1999 honoree Ivan Rodriguez
struck out against Pedro Martinez on April 25, 2000.

      Verlander allowed Ortiz's double in the second, then retired 10
in a row. He caught Cody Ross looking in the second with a vintage
breaking ball that left the Boston hitter dropping his bat and
walking away even before plate umpire Dale Scott finished calling
him out on strikes.

      “This was the best opening day I've had, and hopefully that
goes toward all the hard work I've been putting in to get off to a
better start,” he said. “Long way to go, but it's good to get
that first one under your belt and have it be a good one.”

      NOTES: It was Valverde's first blown save since Sept. 2, 2010,
against Minnesota. … The Tigers reported 45,027 tickets sold, an
opening day record for Comerica. … The temperature at game time
was 43 degrees. … Francona was at the game as an analyst for
ESPN. … Detroit RHP Doug Fister will face Boston RHP Josh Beckett
when the teams play again Saturday.
     

     
      (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)