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DET@BOS: Saltalamacchia's double breaks scoreless tie

BOSTON -- On Wednesday afternoon, manager Terry Francona called the kind of offense Victor Martinez brought to the Red Sox in his year and a half here "a bonus."

What Boston's been left with in Martinez's place hasn't exactly fit that description this season, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn't allow those thoughts to linger with a soaked Fenway Park crowd Wednesday night.

In Martinez's first game back after leaving for the Tigers as a free agent, Saltalamacchia's two-out, eighth-inning double off the Green Monster plated Carl Crawford from first and gave the Red Sox a hard-fought 1-0 victory to extend Boston's winning streak to five games.

"If it didn't [reach the wall], I was going to walk off right there, because I hit that ball well," Saltalamacchia said. "That's the way it's been going. We've been hitting balls good, just not falling in and not going to the wall. We needed that. It was a big win."

Crawford, who struck out in his previous two at-bats, drew a full-count walk off southpaw Daniel Schlereth, who had just entered the game with two outs. Saltalamacchia then doubled to left-center on a 2-1 pitch.

Crawford said he would've attempted a steal if he had a chance to, and despite the muddy conditions, he was thinking home all the way.

"I knew he hit it good. I was hoping it was a hit," Crawford said. "You never know for sure with the way the ball carries at night [whether it would be a hit]. ... It's always nice to get those kind of wins."

Martinez nearly played hero, too, doubling to lead off the ninth against Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Martinez's pinch-runner, Andy Dirks, moved to third on a groundout one batter later.

It took three pitches for Papelbon to strike out Alex Avila and end the sac fly possibility. Papelbon needed five more to strike out Ryan Raburn and end the game. After a first-pitch splitter to Avila, Papelbon threw only fastballs.

"I didn't come out of the bullpen like I wanted," said Papelbon, who has eight saves in nine chances. "With the rain and the ups and the downs and all the pitching changes in the inning, I was grinding gears for a little while there. I knew we didn't need to go into extra innings, and I knew this was going to be one I was going to have to fight for. I had to go for the punchouts, no question."

Rain fell all night, but the pace was snappy until a 26-minute rain delay in the top of the eighth. Daniel Bard started and finished that frame, throwing a perfect inning. The quickness of the three-hour, two-minute contest before the delay was owed to the pitchers' duel Clay Buchholz and Phil Coke entered into.

"When you're facing a tough lineup and you have everything working for you, things tend to look like they might be going in your favor more times than not," said Coke, who went seven innings like Buchholz, and needed just 78 pitches to do it. "I can't be upset about anything that went on other than the fact that it was 1-0 in their favor and not ours."

Buchholz's last two starts have been better than all seven that came before them, and he ended his night much the same way Papelbon did -- with emotion. Buchholz walked off the mound after a career-high 127 pitches, a bases-loaded strikeout and a fist pump.

Two hit batsmen helped load the bases for Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson in the seventh. Buchholz had thrown 118 pitches before he faced Jackson, already one more than the right-hander had thrown in his career. He threw 117 against Toronto on April 27 of last year.

Francona said Buchholz "deserved" the chance to work through the inning and had no reservations about leaving him in.

"None, zero," Francona said. "I would've kicked myself for not sending him back out. And once the inning progresses, until he gave up a run, that was his inning."

Through eight pitches, Jackson was still alive, and Buchholz's arm was not only still attached, but capable. Buchholz threw a high 94-mph fastball over the plate, a pitch that would've been ball four had Jackson not went around according to first-base umpire Gary Cederstrom.

"[It was] not intentional [and I] didn't want it to go up there, but he was fouling everything else off, so I was sure glad it did," said Buchholz, who allowed four hits and struck out seven in the no-decision. "I was trying to throw a four-seam away just to try to get him to put it in play. It came out of my hand a little bit high."

The Red Sox were held back by three double plays early, while Buchholz, who has a 1.40 ERA in four starts this month, worked around doubles in the fifth in sixth innings. The mist played havoc on right fielder Mike Cameron, but the lone error was Detroit's. Boston was rained out against the Orioles the day before.

"I hope it just don't last all season," Cameron said. "I know summer has to come soon, where the sun comes out eventually -- every day." Comments