Detroit — Coming off a four wins in a 17-game stretch, the Tigers were looking to get balance and keep things in order ahead of a span of 14 games against Central Division foes.
All that stood in the way was a series finale against the Boston Red Sox. Even with a late lead, the Tigers couldn’t close the deal and fell to the Red Sox, 5-3, in a nationally televised game on Sunday night at Comerica Park.
On Saturday night, Joe Nathan gave up two runs in the ninth inning. But with a four-run cushion, the Tigers had enough to hold off a late Red Sox rally.
One night later, the Tigers weren’t as fortunate.
Clinging to a one-run lead, Joba Chamberlain pitched the ninth and gave up a go-ahead three-run home run to David Ortiz. The win helped the Red Sox avert a season sweep at the hands of the Tigers, who won three at Fenway Park three weeks ago.
Chamberlain, who has two saves this season, was looking to close out the win, as Nathan was unavailable after throwing 32 pitches on Saturday.
“It’s not any different; there’s nobody behind you and it’s your game,” Chamberlain said. “You have to go out and execute your pitches — I didn’t and they took advantage.
“This one’s on me — the great thing about this game is I get an opportunity to turn around tomorrow and get back out there.”
Chamberlain entered in the ninth and gave up a leadoff single to Brock Holt before striking out Xander Bogaerts. Dustin Pedroia got a walk, setting up the matchup with Ortiz.
“It’s one of those things — he came up against a very good hitter and the hitter won,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Joba has come in a couple times and gotten saves for us when we needed it. It’s not like he’s never done it. I think he was pitching the third straight day and a little fatigued and not able to finish his pitches quite like he wanted and Ortiz took advantage.”
Ausmus was forced to go to the bullpen early after starter Anibal Sanchez needed 112 pitches to get through six innings, giving up two runs on six hits, with seven strikeouts. Sanchez gave up a home run to Mike Napoli in the sixth that tied it at 2 before getting Stephen Drew to ground into a double play to end the inning.
It was the first home run allowed by Sanchez in 551⁄3 innings this season; the last home run Sanchez had allowed was in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series — also to Napoli.
“His stuff was good; he was just missing around the zone a little bit and pitch count got up in a couple at-bats with a couple foul balls,” Ausmus said. “But he was able to muscle through the sixth, so that certainly helped quite a bit. His getting through that was big for us.”
Phil Coke also provided a boost, extinguishing a Red Sox rally in the seventh — getting Ortiz to fly out with runners on first and third and two outs. In the eighth, Coke allowed a leadoff single to Napoli, who stole second. Napoli moved to third on a grounder and pinch-hitter Jonathan Herrera was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and third with two outs. But Coke got Jackie Bradley Jr. to strike out, ending the threat and sending the Comerica Park crowd of 33,835 into a standing ovation.
Miguel Cabrera left the game in the bottom of the inning after lacing a single to left. Cabrera looked to grimace as he left the batter’s box but made it to first safely. Trainer Kevin Rand and Ausmus checked on Cabrera, who exited the game because of tightness in his left hamstring; his status is day-to-day.
“He had a little bit of tightness in his hamstring; it was similar to what happened in the Texas game earlier in the year. It’s the standard day-to-day and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Ausmus said. “He mentioned it (hurt) earlier in the game but the at-bat we took him out, you could really see in the box it started to bother him even more. There’s really no reason to risk a major injury.”
Cabrera helped the Tigers take the lead after a leadoff double in the fourth; Victor Martinez followed with an RBI single to make it 2-1.
The Red Sox scored first on a sacrifice fly by Pedroia, which scored Bradley in the third inning. The Tigers got their first run after Austin Jackson singled, stole second and scored on rookie Eugenio Suarez’s RBI single in the third.
Koji Uehara got his 12th save with a perfect ninth inning.
The Tigers start a four-game series at the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.