Hit and run: Berry sparks Tigers past Red Sox

Hit and run: Berry sparks Tigers past Red Sox

Hit and run: Berry sparks Tigers past Red Sox
BOSTON -- Don't ask manager Jim Leyland what he's going to do with Quintin Berry once Austin Jackson returns, because he doesn't know. Leyland doesn't even know yet when Jackson's coming back from the disabled list.

Here's what Leyland and the Tigers know: They're a better team right now when Berry is running somewhere, because it means he's using his speed. It's an asset not only the Tigers lack, but most of baseball doesn't have to his degree.

Berry's speed helped turn an otherwise plodding three-hour, 23-minute battle for the Tigers at Fenway Park into a 7-3 win over the Red Sox. It helped turn what could've been a four-game series sweep into a salvaged win, and a potentially disastrous road trip into a 4-6 record.

Detroit's leadoff man didn't do everything; he had a lot of help behind him. But when the Tigers steal three bases for the third time this month after doing so only once last season, and Prince Fielder legs out his second triple since 2010, it's hard to argue Berry doesn't set a tone.

"It's a lot of fun. It's a high-energy piece that I'm allowed to bring to the game and to this team," Berry said. "You see your teammates get fired up when you do certain things, stretch first to third or first to home, steal a bag, everybody's behind you the whole way. It's exciting to have it and be able to help this team out any way I can."

It's an exciting asset that Tigers fans will have the chance to see at home for the first time Friday night. It's a skill the Red Sox will be glad to see out of their park and bothering the Yankees this weekend.

Berry took away what could've been a game-tying hit in the late innings for the Red Sox into a highlight catch in the depths of center field at Fenway. Daniel Nava, who usually struggles against lefties but centered the Phil Coke pitch in the seventh, had to question his luck when he saw it happen.

"He hit that ball real good," Leyland said, "and I wasn't too happy when I saw it go up, but Berry made a good catch."

Coke, who watched Adrian Gonzalez get him for the go-ahead run Wednesday night, thanked Berry on his way out of the clubhouse by mimicking a tip of the hat.

"It hung up there just enough, so I was able to get under it," Berry said. "I knew that wall shoots out there into right-center. It's definitely big out here."

Berry used all of that depth to protect a lead he helped build.

Berry had been an offensive catalyst upon arrival from Triple-A Toledo last week, helping the Tigers sweep the Twins in Minnesota last weekend, but he went 2-for-13 with nine strikeouts through the first three games of this series, including four strikeouts Wednesday.

After that game, he thought about his approach. Berry was 2-for-4 over those three games when he put the ball in play. His solution was to avoid a two-strike situation.

"The last two days, I've been getting behind in the count and struggling a little bit," Berry said, "so I definitely was going to be aggressive early, looking to get my pitch and not miss it."

Berry's first four at-bats totaled seven pitches. After grounding out on the first pitch of the night, he continued a third-inning barrage against Josh Beckett by lashing a 1-0 pitch into the gap in left-center field. The single not only scored Don Kelly, it moved Danny Worth into scoring position for a Brennan Boesch sacrifice fly.

Berry stole second on the first pitch to Boesch and then took off for third on Miguel Cabrera's flyout to center. Fielder rewarded Berry with an RBI single through the middle.

Kelly, Worth and Berry had three straight hits in just six Beckett pitches.

"You're going to have five pitches in a game that you're going to have to make, and I think I made three of them today," Beckett (4-5) said. "And the other two cost me three runs in one inning."

By contrast, Berry was patient in the fifth inning by waiting for a 1-1 pitch to lay down a bunt single in front of third baseman Kevin Youkilis. That, too, was an adjustment after he fouled off the previous pitch.

"[Youkilis] was playing tight on me," Berry said, "and I got ahead in the count and [Beckett] gave me a fastball. I took a pretty good swing on it and I saw Youkilis back up a little bit finally, gave me a little room. So then I decided to drop it down."

Again, Berry stole second on catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whose second-inning solo homer and third-inning RBI single accounted for two of the three runs off Tigers starter Max Scherzer. Saltalamacchia's throw hit Berry in the arm and rolled, allowing Berry to take third ahead of Cabrera's one-out single for the go-ahead RBI.

Berry credited first-base coach and baserunning coach Tom Brookens for his aggressiveness on the basepaths.

"Me and Brookens went over the tapes earlier on Beckett, seeing how quick his move and how slow he is to the plate, really broke him down a little bit," Berry said. "I was definitely looking to get on base early and steal."

Berry's second three-hit game in five days bumped his hit total to 13 through his first nine Major League games, tied for fifth-highest for a Tigers player since at least 1918.

Scherzer (5-3) wasn't quite as dominant as his previous two starts, in which he had fanned 24 batters in 12 1/3 innings. Still, he retired nine straight batters from the fourth inning through the sixth, getting his hitters back to the plate quickly as they got going off Beckett.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.