Breaks falling Sox's way as streak reaches four

Breaks falling Sox's way as streak reaches four

Breaks falling Sox's way as streak reaches four
BOSTON -- Not only are the Red Sox winning, but the breaks which seemed absent earlier in the season are now coming their way.

Consider the rare circumstances in which a rain-shortened 4-1 victory over the Tigers ended on Tuesday night.

In the top of the sixth inning, Detroit had the bases loaded with two outs.

Before you could say "go-ahead run is at the plate," the pouring rain left the umpiring crew little alternative but to call for the tarp on the field.

Mother Nature never cooperated after that, so the Tigers didn't get a chance to see the rally through. The game was called after a delay of an hour and 45 minutes.

Instead of a 27-out victory, Boston had itself a "W" in 17 outs.

"Unique. I don't think it's ever happened before," said manager Bobby Valentine said of play being halted with a possible game-altering rally in progress, "and that's why we come out [every day] -- to find something new in this great game of baseball."

Yes, suddenly the game of baseball is great for the Red Sox, who have won four in a row for the first time since a five-game streak from June 16-21. Boston is a mere 7 1/2 games behind the Yankees, climbing four games in four days. The Sox are 3 1/2 games back in the Wild Card standings.

"We have a talented group and we all believe in ourselves and each other," said right fielder Cody Ross.

Aside from the rain, the only damper for Boston was that Josh Beckett had to leave his start with two outs in the third inning because of a back spasm.

"Shoot, it locked up on me [quick]," Beckett said. "I've had this before. It's been worse. It wasn't getting any better."

Beckett was magnificent early, retiring the first eight batters he faced.

Before leaving, Beckett ran into trouble. Omar Infante reached on an infield hit. The righty hit Austin Jackson. Then he walked Quintin Berry and Miguel Cabrera, the latter of which forced in a run.

After the walk to Cabrera, Beckett called for the training staff.

"It kept getting worse and I couldn't throw a strike," said Beckett.

On came Clayton Mortensen. Fresh off another recall from Triple-A Pawtucket, the righty got off to a scary start when his second pitch to Prince Fielder was belted down the right-field line, and just a couple of feet from a grand slam.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, it was just foul.

"It was definitely a lot of concern on that one. He hit it and I'm just sitting on the mound just saying, 'Go foul, go foul, go foul.' I just watched it tail foul, and I was like, 'OK, I got away with one. Now we've got to lock it in.' Scary pitch, but just a long strike," said Mortensen.

But again, the Red Sox are getting breaks lately, such as last weekend in New York, when Pedro Ciriaco had one game-winning hit that Curtis Granderson misplayed and another that blooped just over first base over a drawn-in infield.

Mortensen got locked in after the scare from Fielder, going 2 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the win.

"You know, you bring in a guy from the Minor Leagues and he gets an immediate call to the mound and their fourth-place hitter just misses a home run," said Valentine. "You know, as soon as he gets there, he gets out of that jam. He was sparkling. He was great. That's a well-deserved win."

The Red Sox didn't score in the first, but they did their best to wear down Tigers ace Justin Verlander, forcing him to match his uniform number with 35 pitches.

In the fourth, the Red Sox broke through for a prolonged rally against Verlander. Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia started it with singles. With one out, Kelly Shoppach drew a walk to load the bases.

Ciriaco looped in an RBI single to right to tie the game. Verlander then walked Jacoby Ellsbury to force in the go-ahead run. Carl Crawford followed with a slow roller that second baseman Infante couldn't make a play on. The ball then scooted past him, allowing two runs to score.

The Tigers tried to beat Mother Nature to the punch with a rally that started when Fielder drew a walk against Mortensen in the top of the sixth.

With one out, Valentine called on lefty Franklin Morales. After getting a groundout, Morales gave up a single to Alex Avila and a walk to Jhonny Peralta.

Right then, the steady rain became pouring rain. Nobody knew it at the time, but the game was over.

"I was going to go out and talk to Franklin, it was almost impossible for him to throw the ball," said Valentine. "He's trying to keep the ball dry and his hand couldn't be dry. The rosin was wet, his uniform was wet. He was just trying to rub it off. I was worried about the 95 mph that goes awry."

Considering the way it ended, Tigers manager Jim Leyland handled the abbreviated loss with class.

"Certainly, to call the game at this point was the right call," Leyland said. "Could we have maybe gotten through that inning? Who knows? That's a tough situation for an umpire, but I think they definitely made the right call, calling it now. So be it. We put ourselves in an unfortunate situation."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.