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Red Sox 4, Tigers 1

Short and sweet

Sox beat Tigers, Verlander in rainy game called after five innings

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / August 1, 2012
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On a night when rain started falling early at Fenway Park and only got heavier, the four runs the Red Sox scored in the fourth inning proved decisive.

The Sox beat the Detroit Tigers, 4-1, in a game called by rain in the sixth inning Tuesday night. The Tigers had the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the sixth inning when play was stopped.

After a delay of 1 hour, 45 minutes, the game was called and the Red Sox had a win.

“Unique,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “I don’t think it’s ever happened before. That’s why we come out, to find something new in this great game of baseball.”

It probably actually has happened before. But the Red Sox won’t argue with the details. They have won four straight, their longest streak since winning five in a row from June 16-21.

“We’ve made some progress the last few days,” Will Middlebrooks said.

On a night when Josh Beckett left the game in the third inning with a back injury, Clayton Mortensen won the game in relief after being called up from Triple A Pawtucket earlier in the day.

Justin Verlander (12-6) took the loss, allowing all four runs on six hits.

Beckett retired the first eight batters he faced and appeared en route to a strong performance.

His run ended when Omar Infante reached on an infield single. With the rain picking up in intensity, Beckett hit Austin Jackson with a pitch, a 3-and-2 changeup that brushed his jersey. Quintin Berry then walked to load the bases.

Miguel Cabrera was next and Beckett walked him on five pitches to force in a run. The righthander then motioned to the dugout.

Pitching coach Bob McClure and assistant athletic trainer Brad Pearson came to the mound, joined a minute later by Valentine.

Beckett was taken out of the game with what the team said was a lower back spasm. He was loudly booed by the crowd as he walked slowly back to the dugout.

“It is what it is,” Beckett said when asked about the harsh reaction of the crowd to his injury.

Beckett had no other reaction to the booing, but admitted he noticed it.

“Yeah, you always do,” he said.

Valentine, who was talking to the other players on the field at the time, did not realize until later that Beckett had been booed.

“I don’t think he deserved a boo at all,” Valentine said. “Those who were booing will probably take it back today when they figure out what the situation was.”

Beckett said his back “locked up” on him pitching out of the stretch on the slippery mound.

“We’ll take it day-by-day and see how he feels tomorrow and in between,” Valentine said.

Beckett was on the disabled list for nearly two months in 2010 with a back injury that was aggravated while pitching on a wet mound at Yankee Stadium. Beckett also missed a start earlier this season with a strained muscle in his back.

After Beckett’s departure, Mortensen (1-0) got Prince Fielder to fly out to center field.

Mortensen went 2 innings and threw 44 pitches. He left the game in the sixth inning with a runner on first and one out and got an ovation from the fans still at Fenway.

“One of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced,” said Mortensen, who allowed 1 hit, walked 3, and struck out 1. In 23 innings this season, he has allowed three earned runs.

Lefthander Franklin Morales, who could rejoin the rotation if Beckett is forced to miss any starts, got the second out before Alex Avila singled and Jhonny Peralta walked.

The ball was slipping out of Morales’s hands in the heavy rain and umpire crew chief Jerry Layne called for a delay.

“I could barely see the ball,” Middlebrooks said. “They didn’t have much choice.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland supported the idea to call the game despite his team being at-bat.

“You got the bases loaded and you’re a little bit excited because you got a shot, but the umpires do the best they can with that stuff,” Leyland said

“We had been playing in some pretty heavy rain and I think Jerry just decided at that point he needed to stop it and he gave it a good shot to try to get it in, but from what I hear it wasn’t supposed to stop raining around 1 or 1:30.

“So certainly to call the game at this point was the right call. So be it.”

Verlander dominated the Red Sox on Opening Day, throwing eight shutout innings. But he has given up eight earned runs on 16 hits over 11 innings in two starts against them since.

The Red Sox didn’t score in the first inning, but forced Verlander to throw 35 pitches. Verlander didn’t have much trouble in the second and third innings. But the Sox scored four runs in the fourth.

Cody Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia started the inning with singles. Verlander struck out Middlebrooks but walked Kelly Shoppach to load the bases. Pedro Ciriaco singled to right field, driving in Ross.

It was Ciriaco’s third RBI in the last four games. He has started the last four games including three in a row at shortstop in place of injured Mike Aviles. The 26-year-old career minor leaguer has given the Red Sox a lift since being called up July 6, hitting .348 in 20 games.

Ellsbury drew a walk to force in a run. Carl Crawford followed with chopper that got over the glove of Verlander. Infante, cognizant of Crawford’s speed, tried to make a barehanded play and the ball got by him.

Shoppach scored and Ciriaco, running hard, was right behind him. Crawford was credited with an RBI single and Infante was charged with an error for allowing Ciriaco to score.

“I think I was slipping just a little bit and that’s why the ball was elevated and it became pretty difficult for me to throw a strike. Once I finally started to get it down, it was almost too late,” Verlander said.

The Red Sox will go for the series sweep tonight with Aaron Cook facing Rick Porcello.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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