Ramon Santiago hit a two-run homer and Armando Galarraga was sharp in his first start of the season, helping Detroit beat the Boston Red Sox 5-1 on Sunday. The Tigers are the first team to win four straight series at home against reigning playoff teams since 1995, when baseball began putting four teams in the postseason, according to STATS LLC.
They took two of three against Boston after winning three of four over the defending champion Yankees, sweeping the Angels and beating the Twins in two of three games.
“It means we’re a good team,” said Johnny Damon, one of the many newcomers having success. “But it’s too premature to say how it will all shake out.”
A doubleheader gave Galarraga a shot to make his first start of the season and he will get Max Scherzer‘s next turn in the rotation. Galarraga (1-0) gave up one run on three hits over 5 2/3 innings.
He got off to a rough start with five straight balls, drawing sarcastic cheers with his first strike and by walking the third batter.
“I was not nervous, but excited,” Galarraga said. “I was off, but I got my rhythm.”
Galarraga bounced back quickly by getting Kevin Youkilis to line out and David Ortiz to strike out in the first and by retiring the side in order the next inning. He started spring training in a three-way competition to be the No. 5 starter with Dontrelle Willis, who won the job, and Nate Robertson, who was dealt to Florida.
John Lackey (4-2) allowed five runs on nine hits and four walks over seven innings for Boston.
“There were a couple things that happened early where, well, if they don’t happen it is a different game,” he said. “I thought I threw a lot better than my line indicated.”
Lackey threw 50-plus pitches in the first two innings and finished with 123. He gave up six runs in his previous outing, but still won his third straight decision.
In his first at-bat in the majors, Detroit’s Danny Worth hit a two-out RBI infield single in the second inning after fellow rookie Alex Avila fouled off six pitches with two strikes and drew 12-pitch walk. Damon’s bases-loaded walk on a full-count pitch — Lackey’s 50th — made it 2-0 in the second.
“The second inning really hurt him,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “He walked three guys and threw 38 pitches, but he really battled after that.”
Worth became the fifth Tiger to make his debut this season, the quickest they’ve used that many first-time players since five played in the first five games of the 1922 season.
Jeremy Hermida‘s RBI double scored Jonathan Van Every, who led off the third with a double, but was stranded on second on J.D. Drew‘s strikeout and Youkilis’s flyout.
Galarraga’s day ended by walking Ortiz, putting two on with two outs in the sixth inning, and he was given a standing ovation for a solid performance on a day the bullpen needed it after Saturday night’s 12-inning win.
Jeremy Bonderman, who started in Wednesday’s doubleheader and will start Wednesday, got Mike Lowell to pop out in foul territory and to flip his bat toward the dugout in disgust. Bonderman retired the first two in the seventh and was replaced by Fu-Te Ni, who survived a bases-loaded jam he created by striking out Drew.
Ryan Perry gave up a leadoff single in the eighth, then struck out Ortiz and third baseman Brandon Inge made a spectacular play by getting to Lowell’s grounder in the hole and making a backhanded throw to start an inning-ending double play. Jose Valverde put two on in the ninth, pitching in a non-save situation.
Boston’s Dustin Pedroia was rested after Francona noticed him limping a little after twisting his right knee the previous night, but he’s expected to play Monday night against the Yankees and Josh Beckett is scheduled to start Tuesday against them. … The 2002 Dodgers were the only team since 1995 to win four straight series — at home or on the road — against teams that were in the playoffs the previous year, according to STATS. … Detroit, with an AL-best 14 home wins, begins a two-game series Monday against the Chicago White Sox. … Detroit plans to play Carlos Guillen at second base for the first time since 1999, when his injured left hamstring is healthy enough for him to return. … Red Sox OF Jacoby Ellsbury (bruised chest) is expected to play his first rehab game Monday for Triple-A Pawtucket, where OF Mike Cameron (abdominal strain) has been rehabbing.