DETROIT (AP) – The Detroit Tigers dominated the Red Sox 9-2 Friday night in the opener of the three-game series that is Boston’s only scheduled visit to the Motor City this year.
All-Star shortstop Carlos Guillen won’t be surprised if the Red Sox are back for the AL championship series.
“We are the two best teams, maybe with Anaheim,” Guillen said, referring to the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels.
For at least one night, the highest-scoring offense in baseball was too much for the team with the best record in the majors.
Curtis Granderson led off the fifth with a home run and Marcus Thames added a grand slam in the inning to make Detroit starter Andrew Miller comfortable again.
Miller (4-2) has been backed by an average of 10 runs in his six starts.
The aw-shucks rookie with a patchy beard and wicked left arm shrugged off anything he’s done to receive the run support.
“They’re averaging a lot of runs for everybody,” Miller said after giving up one run and three hits over seven innings. “It’s pretty unbelievable the way the offense is right now.”
The Tigers have scored 27 runs in three straight wins – helping them move into a tie with Cleveland atop the AL Central – and are averaging six runs a game.
Boston, which had won four straight, is 53-32 and leads the AL East by 11 games.
Julian Tavarez (5-7) allowed a season-high eight runs over 4 2-3 innings to lose his third straight start.
“This was my worst outing,” he said.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona chose to intentionally walk Sean Casey to load the bases with two outs and Tavarez was a strike away from making the decision work.
“We were down 4-1, and we didn’t want to go to the pen in the fifth, so we walked Casey to try to get Julian against Thames,” Francona said. “That worked out about as badly as it could have.”
Tavarez contributed to the move backfiring.
“I couldn’t believe he threw me a fastball because he had me down 1-2,” Thames said. “He’s usually a junk pitcher and he tried to sneak a fastball past me, and he left it up.”
Granderson made sure the Tigers excelled in every phase with a picture-perfect throw.
After Wily Mo Pena tripled to lead off the third, Jeff Bailey hit a fly to center field in his first major league at-bat. Granderson caught it and fired a strike to home plate, where Pena was out after sliding into and toppling over catcher Mike Rabelo.
“It took some starch out of them,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.
Francona agreed, even though Coco Crisp had an RBI single later in the third.
“That was a great throw, one of the better ones you’ll ever see,” Francona said. “We came right back, but that’s like a big slam dunk the way it fires up the crowd.”
After Tavarez held Detroit scoreless for three innings, the Tigers went ahead 3-1 in the fourth.
Gary Sheffield led off the inning with a single, advanced a base on a throwing error and scored on Magglio Ordonez’s single to tie it. Thames hit a sacrifice fly to put the Tigers ahead and Brandon Inge added an RBI double.
Granderson hit the first pitch of the fifth over the right-field fence for his 12th homer, giving Detroit a three-run lead. Thames’ third career grand slam, and ninth homer of the season, made it 8-1.
Boston had a tough time against Miller, a hard-throwing lefty, who responded well as he faced a two-on, one-out jam in the seventh.
Leyland walked out to the mound and the crowd rose to cheer for Miller, anticipating it being the end of his outing, and roared when Leyland went back to the dugout without making a change.
His next pitch was a 94-mph strike to Bailey and he got out of the inning with a groundout and a liner.
Miller matched a season-high with six strikeouts and set a career mark with four walks in his 109-pitch outing.
“He’s got a tremendous arm with good stuff,” Francona said. “As he progresses and learns command, he’s going to be a special kid.”
Notes: Tigers INF Neifi Perez became the first player penalized for testing positive for a stimulant under Major League Baseball’s drug program Friday, a 25-game suspension that will cost him about $400,000 of his $2.5 million salary. … Boston DH David Ortiz and Detroit C Ivan Rodriguez weren’t in the lineup, getting a day to rest. … Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis (hamstring) was out of the starting lineup for the fourth time in five games. … Thames matched a career high with five RBIs. … Boston won three of four games against Detroit at home in May.