Instead, Craig Monroe's blooper down the right-field line became a run-scoring single, sending Detroit on its way to its fourth victory in six games this season when tied after eight innings.
With the White Sox losing to Kansas City, Detroit's lead in the AL Central opened back up to 6 1/2 games. The Tigers will have to play at least part of the stretch run without their second baseman, but that was a concern for later. For a few moments after Tuesday's game, Leyland and the Tigers just wanted to enjoy this one. Even Polanco, holding his left arm close to his body to protect the separated left shoulder, wanted to enjoy it.
"They played their hearts out tonight," Leyland said. "Nothing else you can say about it. They played their hearts out."
To Leyland, the effort started with Bonderman, whose fourth consecutive start without a victory said nothing about his performance. For all the weapons in Boston's mighty lineup, the only run allowed by the 23-year-old right-hander until the eighth inning was a solo home run by leadoff man Coco Crisp. The only other extra-base hit he allowed was a Wily Mo Pena double.
Meanwhile, Bonderman held David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to a combined 0-for-5 with a walk, continuing Detroit's defense of the duo that began with Nate Robertson on Monday. Not until Bonderman was out of the game did Ortiz come through with his first hit of the series.
"It's a challenge," Bonderman said. "Anytime you've got Manny and David Ortiz in there, you've got to work. I was able to keep the little guys off base, and I was able to get those guys out. It was a great team win."
Before the game, Leyland said that any chance the Tigers had of beating Curt Schilling would have to start with a well-pitched game from Bonderman. In a sign of how far Bonderman has advanced in his career, Schilling was thinking the same thing about beating him.
"I knew coming in that Bonderman was pitching," Schilling said. "I mean, if I could start a Major League team with five starting pitchers, he is on my list. He is one of the best pitchers and definitely one of the top two or three young pitchers in the game. I knew going in that it was going to be [a battle]."
Bonderman scattered two singles with three strikeouts his first time through Boston's order before Crisp hit a 94-mph fastball out to right with one out in the third. Not only did Bonderman shake it off, he actually improved, retiring the next 10 batters he faced.
"I made a good pitch," Bonderman said of the Crisp homer. "He was looking in. I wasn't going to walk him and give him a free base. I made him hit my pitch, and he hit it. Tip your hat and move on."
Just when Bonderman seemed headed for a 1-0 loss for his trouble, Sean Casey pulled Detroit ahead in the top of the seventh, lining a Schilling splitter into the gap in right-center field after back-to-back singles from Carlos Guillen and Rodriguez. After Pena doubled with two outs in the bottom half of the inning, Polanco's over-the-shoulder catch stranded the would-be tying run on base.
The play came at a price. Polanco separated his left shoulder on the play, knocking him out of this game and likely for quite a while longer.
The injury left the Tigers in a roster bind. Omar Infante, Detroit's utility infielder off the bench, started Tuesday at third base before being lifted for Brandon Inge in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement. With two outfielders and backup catcher Vance Wilson remaining on the bench, Leyland pinch-hit Wilson in Polanco's spot leading off the eighth, then moved Rodriguez to second base in the bottom of the inning.
It was Rodriguez's first career appearance at second base in his 1,983rd Major League game, adding another position to his resume.
Rodriguez had no chance on the play that tied the game. After Bonderman's eighth strikeout of the night sent down Javy Lopez leading off the bottom of the eighth, Crisp struck again in more traditional fashion, beating out a ground ball to short. Mark Loretta moved Crisp over to second to bring up Ortiz with two outs.
With Bonderman at 103 pitches, Leyland chose not to let Ortiz get a fourth chance off of him. The manager opted for a lefty-on-lefty matchup, but with Wilfredo Ledezma instead of Jamie Walker. Ledezma put Ortiz in a 2-2 count before the slugger reached out and pulled a curveball on the outside corner. The line drive sailed over Rodriguez, playing in short right field with the infield shift, and into right-center, allowing Crisp to score.
Fernando Rodney (6-3) came on to retire the other half of Boston's power tandem with a Ramirez groundout.
Proving aggressiveness wasn't just limited to Detroit's pitching, the Tigers ran their way into the game-winning rally. After Guillen's leadoff walk off Mike Timlin (5-2), Leyland put on a hit-and-run play with Casey, whose one-out single through the right side moved Guillen to third.
Monroe then hit a fly ball down the right-field line. Pena seemed to have a read on it, but after running under it, he couldn't handle it. Guillen trotted home, and the Tigers had come through again at Fenway, where they've won more games in the last two days when they had in the previous three years combined.
"I love this place," Bonderman said. "It's a good place to pitch. The energy in this place is unbelievable. Every time you go up against one of the best pitchers in the game, you've got to bring your 'A' game. I was just able to keep my team right there and give us a shot."