Detroit began the bottom of the second inning with rookie starter Rick Porcello seemingly cruising with a three-run lead. One pitch off Kevin Youkilis' back led to chaos, not just with the altercation on the field but with the Tigers' pitching afterward.
It ended up feeling like two separate games separated by the mayhem, and the Tigers lost the final result. Their 7-5 defeat to the Red Sox, combined with a White Sox win at Seattle, whittled their lead to two games in the American League Central with Josh Beckett awaiting them Wednesday.
"It's frustrating because Porcello, he looked very good out there on the mound," said Miguel Cabrera, who's listed as day-to-day after Junichi Tazawa's first-inning pitch off his left hand knocked him out of the game.
"I don't think he was trying to hit Youkilis," Cabrera continued. "We were up, 3-0. We want to win the game. When you have something happen like that, it was frustration."
The result was pretty frustrating, too.
"Next question," Leyland said when asked anything about the second inning.
The Tigers seemed in control early after batting around in a three-run opening inning off Tazawa in his first Major League start, including Brandon Inge's RBI single. But they also left the bases loaded when No. 9 hitter Ramon Santiago grounded out.
Tazawa (1-1) needed 35 pitches in an opening half-inning that lasted exactly 20 minutes. He retired 12 of 14 hitters over his next four innings, regaining command of the game once Porcello left.
"The first inning, he wasn't able to throw his offspeed stuff for strikes," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "Once they came back in the second inning, you could feel the momentum shift, big time. We weren't able to stop them in that inning."
Porcello, who threw an inside pitch to Victor Martinez with two outs in the opening inning, hit Youkilis in the back with his first pitch in the second. Youkilis immediately ran at a surprised Porcello on the first-base side of the mound. Both benches emptied, but Porcello and Youkilis were the only players ejected.
That turned out to hurt the Tigers far more.
"Obviously, it's kind of a whirlwind," Brandon Inge said. "It changes the game. It changes the whole aspect of it, actually. You lose your pitcher that looked like he was going to have a good game out there tonight. But that's baseball."
While former All-Star Mike Lowell replaced Youkilis, the Tigers had few options after Porcello. Zach Miner, who has covered long-inning assignments this year, pitched two innings Monday, as had Fu-Te Ni.
Chris Lambert, a starter at Triple-A Toledo before being called up to Detroit's bullpen last week, was essentially the Tigers' long relief man. Once David Ortiz greeted him with a single and Jason Bay hit the next pitch out to left, the game was tied -- and the momentum was reversed.
"What's funny is coming in here, we knew Boston was kind of struggling a little bit," Inge said. "But that's when teams are the most dangerous. They're trying to turn things around, too. Once they get hot, they start rolling."
Lambert (0-1) stranded two runners and erased a leadoff walk in the third with a double play. But he paid for falling behind on Lowell, who pinch-ran for Youkilis in the second and lined a 3-1 pitch over the Green Monster in the third. Two innings later, he turned on a Lambert curveball for another shot, this one a two-run homer.
Lambert saved the Tigers' bullpen from extensive work by lasting five innings, but he gave up five runs.
"Well, that's not an easy situation for anybody," Leyland said. "I felt bad for him, but that's baseball. That's the way it is."
Technically, the Red Sox (64-48) didn't knock out Lambert. It was a one-hour, 21-minute rain delay that ensured he wouldn't come out for another inning. Rookie Ryan Perry entered for the seventh inning and gave up an unearned run without a hit thanks to his two-base throwing error on Jacoby Ellsbury's comebacker and a run-scoring balk two batters later.
That run came up huge once Curtis Granderson's two-run homer off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth, his 23rd homer on the year, brought the Tigers (59-53) within two runs. Instead of climbing within a run, they still needed one more runner to reach base to bring the potential tying run to the plate, and it didn't happen.
"We have to be good at this point of putting games like this behind us," Inge said, "and coming out the next day focused."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less