The pitching staff continues to take hits and get shuffled around, yet the wins just keep coming, and many of them in dramatic fashion.
Josh Beckett informed the staff of his neck pain after the sixth. Because it was on the side of the neck near his throwing shoulder, the club wanted to take precaution, but Beckett is expected to be just fine, according to Terry Francona.
Also, in the wake of their third straight win in their final at-bat, the Sox made a deal for former Colorado left-hander Franklin Morales. This, hours after agreeing with Kevin Millwood on a minor league deal.
Look for all the news on that front on the site. And look for Boston to try to extend its winning streak to seven games when the Chicago Cubs come to town Friday night. The distinguished Mike Cole will carry you through that one, and the unflappable Ricky Doyle has you Saturday. I'll be back Sunday night for the series finale.
Final, Red Sox 4-3: After the phenomenal force play at home kept the Tigers alive for another hitter, Carl Crawford, Mr. Walk-off himself, lined one over the drawn-in center fielder, scoring Darnell McDonald with the game-winner.
That is six straight wins and three of the last four home victories have come in walk-off fashion.
Be right back with word on Josh Beckett, and everything else.
10:15 p.m.: Jed Lowrie was up with the bases loaded and no outs and he blooped one into shallow left that fell in. Game over? Nope.
Lef fielder Andy Dirks, playing in already, scooped it on one throw and threw a dart to home plate for the force. It's the old 7-2 putout and we are still playing.
Mid 9th, 3-3: High drama at Fenway, and it looked a lot like it did just 24 hours earlier.
Jonathan Papelbon loaded the bases with one out and had to face the 3-4 hitters in the Detroit order. Just like Wednesday, when he used fastball after fastball to get two strikeouts and leave a runner at third, he stays with the heater and strikes out Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera.
Papelbon threw 18 straight fastballs to finish the inning. His last was clocked at 97 mph. Cabrera foul-tipped it into Jason Varitek's glove, Papelbon pumped his fist and this place exploded.
Justin Verlander is done. Al Alburquerque is on in relief.
9:53 p.m.: Jonathan Papelbon has loaded the bases in the ninth on two singles and a walk. There is one out and Brennan Boesch, who homered last inning, is up.
9:49 p.m.: The official word on Josh Beckett from the team is that he departed with a tight neck. It was just precautionary, we are told.
Wish I could do the same. Neck's been barking for six innings now.
End 8th, 3-3: The top of the Boston order is 0-for-12 with three strikeouts in this one. Justin Verlander made quick work of them again in the eighth.
He may start the ninth at 114 pitches, depending on how things go in the top half against Jonathan Papelbon. Jose Valverde is up an warming for Detroit.
Papelbon enters with 23 strikeouts against only two walks. He's been very, very good.
Mid 8th, 3-3: Terry Francona said that there have been times this year when Daniel Bard simply hasn't commanded, and because he is always in a big spot, it's glaring.
Doesn't get any more noteworthy than Bard giving up back-to-back solo homers to squander a two-run lead in a span of five pitches in the eight.
Brennan Boesch hammered Bard's second offering of the night for a home run to right. Miguel Cabrera followed with one over the Monster. Tie game before we could even clear our throats in the press box in preparation for our Sweet Caroline singalong.
Four runs allowed in the last 5 1/3 innings by Bard, whose peripheral numbers remain excellent.
This is what makes Justin Verlander so special. While the Red Sox have burned through three arms already, Verlander is as strong as ever. Not even a question to send him back out there to start the eighth.
End 7th, Red Sox 3-1: A little more breathing room for the bullpen after David Ortiz unloaded on a hanging changeup by Justin Verlander.
Ortiz hammered the offering through the mist and fog and well beyond the bullpens, a mammoth shot that goes in the books as his eighth of the year.
Daniel Bard is on to pitch the eighth.
Reports that Kevin Millwood has signed with the Red Sox. It is a minor league deal. If Josh Beckett really had anything serious go on tonight, the signing could be even more critical.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 2-1: Matt "The Blessing" Albers strikes out two in a scoreless seventh. His ERA is down to 1.56. Has legitimately been one of the team MVPs.
Hideki Okajima, who hasn't thrown since his career-high 43-pitch effort against Minnesota 10 days ago, was warming in the pen, presumably for Brennan Boesch.
Once Albers struck out Scott Sizemore to end it, Daniel Bard got up. He will pitch the eighth, barring anything out of the ordinary.
By the way, nobody is ever hitting the ball on that Jordan's sign. Ever. Bothers me so much.
End 6th, Red Sox 2-1: Adrian Gonzalez is now hitless in six at-bats since his walk-off two-run double the other night. Basically, he's a bust.
Indeed, Matt Albers is coming on to pitch. We will see what the status is for Josh Beckett, who threw 83 pitches. If it was 11-1, he might be pulled. But this is obviously something physical.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 2-1: Josh Beckett struck out the first man of the night, went 23 straight hitters without getting another and then fanned two straight to end the top of the sixth.
Beckett's ERA is at 1.73. He has thrown 83 pitches. It's early, but soon enough we can start having some award talk, and Beckett would be at the front of the list of Cy Young candidates. I know, very early. Just sayin'.
As I type that, there is quick action in the bullpen. Matt Albers is up. Would Beckett be done so soon? Hate to say it but I did see him grab his back once or twice. Again, just sayin'.
End 5th, Red Sox 2-1: Two strikeouts and a weak grounder to second gets Justin Verlander through the fifth without an issue.
Verlander has seven strikeouts, all in the last four innings. He has 152 more innings in him before they'll have to go to the pen.
Hate the overuse of the term "horse" to describe pitchers you can rely on, but that's what comes to mind. Two horses working tonight. Horses.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 2-1: Two more putouts for J.D. Drew. Is this theme getting boring? Sorry, it's just very notable.
Josh Beckett worked around a pair of singles in the inning, one of the infield variety. He has thrown a very tidy 62 pitches, in great shape to match Justin Verlander deep into this one.
End 4th, Red Sox 2-1: Can this be a stranger night for J.D. Drew? He now has both RBIs after a solo shot deep into the seats in right.
It's Drew's third of the year and just his eighth extra-base hit.
Mid 4th, 1-1: J.D. Drew had four straight putouts after tracking down the first two outs of the fourth. The MLB record for putouts by an OF in one game is 12, so he's got a chance. Cross your fingers, folks.
Josh Beckett needed just five pitches to retire the side.
End 3rd, 1-1: Terry Francona was asked earlier about the improvements at the plate for his two catchers. It's been quiet, but legit.
Jason Varitek singled to start the third to improve to 6-13 over his last five games. We saw Jarrod Saltalamacchia improve to 4-for-11 in his last three with his tie-breaking double last night.
So what does Justin Verlander think about all that? Well, he showed us by striking out Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez. Verlander is tough to get to as the game goes on. We'll see if he's starting one of his rolls.
Mid 3rd, 1-1: It's been an interesting game so far for J.D. Drew.
He had the nap in the top of the second, drove in the Sox' first run with a sac fly, and made a nice running grab deep into the corner for the second out of the third.
A little of everything from your right fielder.
Josh Beckett has his first 1-2-3 inning. Each of his last six outs have been recorded in the air.
End 2nd, 1-1: Some good action by the Red Sox on the bases in the second.
After lacing a leadoff single to extend his hitting streak to seven games, Kevin Youkilis wanted to take advantage of the defensive shift on David Ortiz.
Youkilis broke for second and Ortiz hit a tapper that found some space amid all the moving infielders, none of whom were in a good position. Youkilis was able to get to third on the hit, and scored on J.D. Drew's fly to left.
Youkilis is batting .375 (9-for-24) during his hot stretch.
Mid 2nd, Tigers 1-0: In the end, J.D. Drew's nap in right field didn't cost the Red Sox a run, but it didn't help Josh Beckett any.
After a walk to Miguel Cabrera, Beckett gave up a single to Victor Martinez, a rather hard hit that Drew fielded with a little too much nonchalance. Cabrera, not a burner, nearly stopped at second but bolted to third when he saw Drew taking it easy.
Two more singles would come in the inning, so a run would've scored anyway. And the Tigers may have given one back anyway when Martinez failed to tag on a relatively deep fly to Carl Crawford in left.
I know Martinez is slow, but he had to give that a try, especially with one out. Instead, the inning ended when Beckett got Austin Jackson to pop to Adrian Gonzalez in foul territory.
End 1st, 0-0: Unsurprisingly, just six men came to the plate in the first inning. Justin Verlander sets down the three he faces with ease.
This has nothing to do with the pitching matchup, but thought you might want to read the decription of the Red Sox' uniforms for Saturday's game against the Cubs:
"The Red Sox home uniform will be a blank button-up with no lettering and a slight off-white or ivory color. The hat will also have a blank off-white tint, and the socks will be a three-part white/red/white composition. The Red Sox used this uniform and hat combination as their primary home look for most of the 1910s, and did not have any lettering on the front of their uniform for the bulk of that decade and the entire 1920s. The team did not wear the familiar blue cap with a red "B" until the early 1930s."
Sounds very pajama-like.
Mid 1st, 0-0: You don't see Dustin Pedroia make too many mistakes at second base. With one out, he muffed a hard grounder that seemed to take some awkward hops, committing his second error of the season.
Pedroia then started a 4-6-3 double play to help Josh Beckett escape unharmed. Pedroia has begun 14 of those this year, trailing only Mark Ellis in the AL among second basemen.
7:09 p.m: Josh Beckett's first pitch to Austin Jackson is a strike. Get set for what could be a great duel.
6:34 p.m.: Just enjoyed a nice dinner, consisting of salad and pizza, a little bit of Coke Zero and some napkin, which I accidentally ate on one bite of the pizza.
So, there's that. There's also a pretty good expectation that we will begin on time tonight. The tarp is gone and the rain is minimal.
A couple of milestones are approaching for some Red Sox players. David Ortiz is two home runs shy of 300 with the team. Jason Varitek is playing in his 1,499th game tonight.
5:31 p.m.: Just got back from the Tweetup event, which was packed at the Bleacher Bar. Got to meet a few followers in there. If you are not on board, follow me here.
The rain is coming down hard, but it should be out of here in an hour or so. Hopefully.
Some pregame news. The Red Sox and Cubs will wear 1918 replica uniforms Saturday night, which will add some intrigue into the big series.
Terry Francona on the meeting: "I think it'll be a big ticket."
Francona did add that it's just another team "coming in we want to beat." He also discussed his short time with the Cubs, which consisted of 86 games in 1986, when all the home games were still during the day at Wrigley.
"I lived north the park, so I would fight the traffic in, fight the traffic home and didn't get very many hits," he said.
Francona talked about how much of a disadvantage the day games were in the sense that the team often arrived in the middle of the night from a road trip and had to start playing again in a few hours. He said the catcher, Jody Davis, would just get beaten up because of that.
But the skipper stressed that that is for Friday. The Sox have a pretty formidable task right now in Justin Verlander. As good as he is, the approach is rather simple.
"This guy tonight, we go into a game knowing you're not going to knock him around the ballpark," Francona added. "If we just make him work hard for everything he gets, maybe get him out of the game an inning early."
In Verlander's last start against Boston, which also took place at Fenway Park, he allowed three runs in seven innings in a no-decision. What was notable was that he was throwing harder when he finished than when he started, something Verlander has become known for.
"He reaches back for more," Francona said.
4:21 p.m.: Just wanted to check in quick before heading over the Red Sox Tweetup for a bit.
There are some serious storms headed the way, which has caused the crew to put the tarp back on.
As I type that, here comes the rain.
It is supposed to pass at some point, but for now we are getting more of the same. Hopefully, it doesn't mar this phenomenal pitching matchup.
If and when Josh Beckett throws his first pitch, here is the lineup he will face:
Austin Jackson, CF
Scott Sizemore, 2B
Brennan Boesch, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Andy Dirks, LF
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Alex Avila, C
Brandon Inge, 3B
3:25 p.m.: Greetings from Fenway Park, where for once we have a pregame without a tarp on the field.
Bobby Jenks is throwing from about 90 feet as I type this, under the watchful eye of trainer Mike Reimold.
Here is the Red Sox lineup against Justin Verlander:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew, RF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Jason Varitek, C
8 a.m.: If you like pitching, make sure to catch the Red Sox-Tigers matchup Thursday night at Fenway Park.
It'll be Justin Verlander of Detroit, two starts removed from a no-hitter and one start removed from almost getting another, against Boston's Josh Beckett.
Verlander made a bid to become the first pitcher to throw consecutive no-hitters since 1938 in his previous outing, but had to settle for eight innings of two-hit ball in 3-1 win over Kansas City. The righty is 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA versus Boston.
Beckett doesn't have any no-hitters in his recent run, but he has been just as impressive. He carries a scoreless streak of 18 1/3 innings into this one, tied for the longest of his career. Beckett is 3-1 with a 2.60 mark in four career starts against the Tigers.
The Red Sox have won five in a row, tied for a season high.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m.