BOSTON -- Zach Miner couldn't have imagined this kind of day when he got up early this morning. For that matter, neither could most of the Tigers.
After all Miner encountered to get here, from a 6:26 a.m. ET flight to Boston to an early-afternoon spot start at Fenway Park when Mike Maroth came down with the stomach flu, Miner nearly pitched the Tigers to an even game. An unearned run in the third inning off a Carlos Guillen error and a stronger outing from Julian Tavarez turned out to be the difference in a 2-1 loss Thursday afternoon.
"All pitchers from both teams pitched outstanding today," manager Jim Leyland said. "It's one of those games."
What was supposed to be Maroth's assignment in the first game of a day-night doubleheader became a sudden spot start when Maroth fell ill. Miner, who was called up for a day to be an extra reliever, was originally scheduled to start Thursday for Triple-A Toledo. With the Tigers already using a spot starter Friday in Andrew Miller, Miner became Thursday afternoon's starter.
For the short notice and shorter sleep, Miner held the dangerous Boston offense in check after early struggles. Three first-inning singles, including two with two outs after a would-be double-play grounder from David Ortiz was nullified by Coco Crisp running around a Guillen tag, led to a run before Guillen couldn't handle a high hop on Julio Lugo's ground ball to lead off the bottom of the third.
Facing the middle of the order, Miner came within a pitch of leaving Lugo stranded. He struck out Manny Ramirez looking at a backdoor fastball on the outside corner, then put Youkilis in an 0-2 hole. However, Youkilis hit a grounder through the right side to give Boston a 2-0 lead.
"He hit the same [fastball] -- outside, ran back," Miner said. "Threw him one earlier in the count that he took. He fouled a couple pitches off and I went back [outside]. He's a good hitter. He pretty much covers all the stuff away. Just got to it."
Miner (0-1) retired the next seven Red Sox he faced before Tim Byrdak struck out five of his six batters, keeping the Tigers close. The way Tavarez was pitching, Detroit never capitalized.
Tavarez (2-4) scattered two hits through the first four innings before the Tigers mounted their only real rally of the afternoon. Brandon Inge singled following Craig Monroe's one-out walk, then Polanco slapped a Tavarez slider through the middle for an RBI single. Gary Sheffield walked to load the bases for Magglio Ordonez, whose 37 RBIs entering the day ranked second to Alex Rodriguez among American League hitters.
Ordonez hit a high fly ball to center, ending the threat and starting a string of 13 Tigers retired in order to end the game. Hideki Okajima retired the middle of the Tigers lineup in the eighth before Jonathan Papelbon worked the ninth for his 11th save.
"He just sunk it and split it a little bit, threw a changeup now and then and located the ball pretty good," Leyland said. "That's what happens. He did a good job."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.