The hornet's nest that Tigers manager Jim Leyland feared his team was flying into when they arrived at Fenway Park this week is abuzz. Wednesday's 8-2 loss to the Red Sox was Zach Miner's turn to get stung, even though he wasn't the scheduled starter when he walked into the ballpark in the afternoon.
It wasn't exactly a no-win situation for Miner when he walked into the visiting clubhouse and got word from the Tigers' coaching staff. But the more outs Josh Beckett posted on Tigers hitters, the more it felt like one. Once the Red Sox put up five runs with two outs in the fifth inning, it pretty much was.
"I thought Zach actually did a pretty good job," Leyland said. "We let it get out of hand a little bit, but overall, Zach did OK and we didn't hit much. A lot of that is because of Beckett, obviously, but that pretty much sums it up."
The Tigers (59-54) certainly knew Beckett could do that. But they were hoping to have a win in this series by then.
"We came in here, and they were struggling as a team," Miner said. "You don't want to say that you kind of know it's a matter of time before they snap out of it, but it's their home park. We felt like we were coming from home, playing well, and should give them some good games. Unfortunately, we just haven't been able to really do a whole lot. They've won three games. You've got to tip your hat."
While the Red Sox (65-48) and Tigers have two of the best home records in the American League, both are under .500 on the road. Nothing in this series has done anything to change those trends. Add in the Murphy's Law effect that seems to be ruling the Tigers here, and the damp, cool weather Wednesday night seemed to fit the visitors' mood.
"Just coming up into it, I thought it was an evenly-matched series," Curtis Granderson said. "But of course, three games into it, that's not the case right now."
Miner's spot start was definitely a tough spot, and the fact that his locker is right next to that of ailing Armando Galarraga was the least of his issues. Galarraga had been scheduled to start Wednesday, but he had been sent back to the team hotel early the previous two days with a severe sore throat that left him unable to swallow solid food.
The Tigers held out hope that Galarraga could go, but knew soon after he arrived at the ballpark Wednesday still looking frail that it wasn't going to happen. Their preferred long option, Chris Lambert, had to pitch five innings in relief of Rick Porcello on Tuesday, then was sent to Triple-A Toledo to make room for an extra reliever.
Enter Miner, a starter at the beginning of the year before moving back to relief in May. These were usually the situations where he thrived, not worrying about winning a rotation job, but he pitched two innings Monday after Edwin Jackson lasted just four innings.
"They told me when I got here," Miner said. "I told them I'd pitch until they took me out."
Under the circumstances, Miner did relatively well. Despite Mike Lowell's third homer in two days and Jason Bay's third homer in as many nights, Miner took a 3-1 deficit into the bottom of the fifth and retired the first two batters he faced.
He had a 1-2 count on Bay before he doubled off the Green Monster, then a 2-2 count on David Ortiz before he lined a 95-mph fastball back up the middle. With Miner (5-3) at 82 pitches, right around the limit the Tigers had on him going in, Leyland went to just-recalled reliever Freddy Dolsi for the third out.
Six batters and five runs later, he got it. In between were an infield blooper from Lowell, an RBI single from Casey Kotchman, a bases-loaded walk to Jason Varitek, a passed ball and a Brandon Inge error.
"Two-out runs are demoralizing for the other team," Beckett said, "because they are so close to being out of that inning."
The Tigers were, and by the end, they were basically out of the game, thanks to Beckett.
Beckett (14-4) retired Detroit's first 11 batters until he walked Clete Thomas with two outs in the fourth. He struck out Marcus Thames to continue the no-hitter, but Carlos Guillen promptly broke it up with a solo homer leading off the fifth. Thames gained his revenge with a seventh-inning solo shot.
"I think the score makes it look a lot worse than it actually was," Granderson said. "I think he pitched great, don't get me wrong. I tip my hat to him. But I think we had opportunities, and if we eliminate that one inning, I think the game would've stayed tight throughout the rest of the way. He did well, but I think we would've had our chances if everything stayed tight. We started to get good swings, get good hacks."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.