DETROIT -- The Tigers couldn't get to the first five pitchers of the night on Saturday against the Red Sox -- they were almost unhittable -- but all it took was one hit off dominant closer Jonathan Papelbon for the win. The Tigers had just six hits over the first 12 innings before Ivan Rodriguez delivered the seventh hit of the game, which proved to be the game-winner off Papelbon. Rodriguez drove a 1-0 pitch just over the outstretched arm of a diving Coco Crisp, scoring Gary Sheffield with two outs in the 13th inning for a 3-2 classic win in front of 44,193, the second-largest crowd at Comerica Park.
"I was catching 13 innings, I was very tired," said Rodriguez, who went 3-for-6. "When you're up in that situation, I just had to relax myself and put the bat on the ball." Sheffield was a bit tired, too. After Papelbon drilled him with the first pitch of the 13th, the closer tried his best to keep Sheffield on first base. He attempted eight pickoff throws before Sheffield finally stole second base. "When he throws over that much, I'm not a basestealer, it kind of gets you tired a little bit," Sheffield said. It was an important base to steal, as Sheffield may not have scored if he hadn't gotten himself into scoring position. But Sheffield, a 20-year veteran, knew exactly what he was looking for. "[Papelbon] gets more velocity on his fastball when he gets that high leg kick," Sheffield said. "In that situation, all we need is one run, and I was just looking to get a high leg kick." Papelbon seemed like the most unlikely reliever to yield a run, with so many other worthy candidates that entered Saturday's game. The two clubs combined to use 10 relievers. The much-maligned Tigers bullpen held firm, as five relievers shut out the Red Sox over five innings of scoreless ball in support of starter Jeremy Bonderman. "[Bonderman] was fantastic and the bullpen did a great job," manager Jim Leyland said. "Hopefully that will lift them up a little bit. They've been a little inconsistent, but tonight every guy that got called upon did a [heck] of a job." Jason Grilli got the reward with the win, recording three outs in the 13th. It was the first win for a Tigers reliever since May 5, when Jose Mesa retired one batter and got a win over the Royals. "They just go out there and continue to prove to us that this is what they can do," said Craig Monroe, who plated the Tigers' only other runs on a two-out, two-run double in the fifth to tie the score at 2. It was his first extra-base hit since a double on June 12 against the Brewers. Bonderman and Todd Jones worked out of two jams in the late innings to keep the score tied, though they were almost afterthoughts when the game ended at 11:33 p.m. ET. Bonderman finished with eight brilliant innings after allowing a two-run homer by David Ortiz in the first. The righty didn't allow a run after that, and worked his way out of a two-on, one-out jam in his eighth and final inning. Bonderman intentionally walked Ortiz to face the right-handed Manny Ramirez, and he got the 11-time All-Star to ground out into a fielder's choice. With his pitch count growing to 114, Bonderman struck out J.D. Drew for the final out of the inning. Jones also intentionally walked Ortiz to get to Ramirez after giving up a leadoff double in the 10th. Jones got Ramirez to ground into an inning-ending double play to keep the score tied. If Ramirez had beat the throw to first, the go-ahead run would have scored. The Tigers had their chances in the late innings, too. They loaded the bases in both the 10th and 11th innings, but couldn't score either time. "[Red Sox manager] Terry [Francona] was doing everything he could do, I was doing everything I could do," Leyland said. "You always find out, when everything is said and done, it's all up to the players. "[It was] just two outstanding clubs going at each other. They battled their tails off, we battled our tails off, and we finally got one more than they did." The four-hour, 28-minute marathon game didn't come without consequences, however. Placido Polanco left the game in the seventh inning with a mild right lat strain. He was replaced at second base by Omar Infante. "He's sore," Leyland said. "[His] back is pretty sore. He will not play tomorrow. [Magglio] Ordonez will not play tomorrow." Polanco is day-to-day, while Leyland just wants to give Ordonez a rest after he played all 13 innings.
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.