DETROIT — Red Sox starter Jon Lester had a sour look on his face when manager John Farrell came to the mound in the sixth inning on Thursday night to take him out of the game.
Lester certainly didn’t want to come out of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series that early.
But Farrell had his bullpen rested and ready to lean on. They closed the door on the Detroit Tigers as the Red Sox moved to within a game of the World Series with a 4-3 victory.
Koji Uehara retired all five batters he faced for his fourth save of the postseason. The Red Sox lead the series, 3-2, with Game 6 at Fenway Park on Saturday. Clay Buchholz will face Max Scherzer.
Four of the five games in the series have been decided by one run. The Sox have 14 runs and the Tigers 16.
Mike Napoli was 3 for 4 with a long home run and a double for the Sox. He scored two of the runs. Rookie Xander Bogaerts, starting his first postseason game, was 1 for 3 with a walk and a run.
After Lester allowed two runs over 5⅓ innings, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow bridged the gap to Uehara.
Lester was fortunate to escape the first inning without giving up a run.
Miguel Cabrera walked and went to second when Prince Fielder singled. Victor Martinez flew to center field for the second out before Jhonny Peralta singled to left field.
Third base coach Tom Brookens initially waved Cabrera to the plate, then threw up a late stop sign. Cabrera kept chugging and was thrown out easily by Jonny Gomes to end the inning. Cabrera half-heartedly barreled into David Ross at the plate.
After the base-running blunder, the Red Sox took a 3-0 lead in the second inning against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, who threw six no-hit innings in Game 1.
It started with Napoli driving a 3-and-1 fastball deep over the fence in center field and into the shrubbery that serves as a backdrop at Comerica Park.
The shot was estimated at 460 feet, impressive on any day but particularly so on a damp night when it was 51 degrees. It was Napoli’s second home run of the series.
Gomes followed with a ground ball to left field that Cabrera, still gimpy after his journey to the plate, booted for an error. Bogaerts doubled to left field, moving Gomes to third base.
Ross followed with a double to the gap in left field, just missing a home run. Gomes scored but Bogaerts misread the ball and did not.
Bogaerts did score when Jacoby Ellsbury singled. Ross tried to score on a contact play when Shane Victorino grounded to second. Ross crashed into catcher Alex Avila but was tagged out.
Avila came up limping and left the game in the fourth inning with a strained left patellar tendon in his left knee and is day to day. He had caught every inning of the postseason before coming out.
If Avila cannot play Saturday, that would be a blow to the Tigers.
Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias made the defensive play of the series in the third inning, ranging out to shallow left field and catching a David Ortiz popup.
Napoli followed with a double to left field. He advanced on a ground out and scored when Sanchez threw a wild pitch.
Before the game, Napoli talked about how much he reveled in the pressure of the postseason.
“I’m comfortable in this situation. I like this time of the year. It’s fun. We’re playing for a championship, trying to get there. It’s a fun time of the year; I enjoy it,” he said. “I remember being younger, it was a little more nerve-racking but I enjoy it now.”
Lester was working on a shutout going into the fifth inning thanks in part to several nice defensive plays behind him. Austin Jackson, rejuvenated as a No. 8 hitter, started the inning with a single.
Iglesias tried to bunt for a hit and looked to have succeeded when Lester fumbled the ball. But Lester scooped the ball to first base and Iglesias was out.
Cabrera’s two-out single to center field cut the lead to 4-1.
Lester walked Martinez to start the sixth inning. When Omar Infante singled, Farrell came out of the dugout and got the stink eye from Lester when he asked for the ball after only 98 pitches.
Tazawa allowed an RBI single by Brayan Pena, who had replaced Avila. But Jackson grounded into a double play started by Bogaerts.
Tazawa stayed in for the seventh inning and allowed a run. Iglesias singled and took third when Torii Hunter singled. A run scored when Cabrera grounded into a double play.