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DET@BOS: Tigers can't complete the comeback at Fenway

BOSTON -- At least manager Jim Leyland and the Tigers can leave Fenway Park knowing what needs to be fixed. The hard part is actually doing it.

For the second straight night, the bullpen wasted a quality start and the Tigers struggled to hit with runners in scoring position, paving the way to a walk-off loss as the Red Sox celebrated a 4-3 win.

"We've got to get going and start to get some big hits again -- and put the ball in play with a man on third and less than two outs," Leyland said in his office after the game. "We're pitching pretty good, so you hate to waste good pitching performances like we have the last couple nights."

Justin Verlander pitched eight strong innings, allowing three runs on six hits, including two solo homers. Al Alburquerque relieved him in the ninth and walked leadoff batter Kevin Youkilis, before a single and an intentional walk loaded the bases. After getting one out, Alburquerque served up a walk-off single to Carl Crawford.

"For two nights in a row we walked the [go-ahead runner] in a crucial situation, and that's a no-no," Leyland said. "That comes back to haunt you like it did tonight. Alburquerque has the type of stuff that can strike a righty or lefty out. He walked the first guy, and it cost him."

Two days after Leyland removed Joaquin Benoit from his setup duties, and one day after Daniel Schlereth gave up the game-winning hit in the eighth inning, Alburquerque's rough ninth pushed Detroit's Major League-worst bullpen ERA to 5.61.

Verlander tossed 114 pitches, allowing three runs with nine strikeouts. He had allowed two hits in 17 innings leading into Thursday. He's now thrown 10 straight quality starts to begin the season, the longest streak for a Tigers pitcher since 1919.

"It's always a big deal when you beat a pitcher like him," said Crawford. "He's a bona fide ace and had good stuff, and we just battled with him all night."

Had it not been for two pitches he admittedly left over the plate, Verlander might have had better fate.

J.D. Drew connected on a home run in the fourth, and David Ortiz followed suit in the seventh. It was the first time in four games Verlander allowed a long ball, and just the second time this year he gave up multiple home runs.

"The one to Drew was horrible location," Verlander said. "I had just gotten a couple quick outs. I tried to throw a fastball down and away to get another quick out, maybe allow myself to go deeper in the game, and he just pulled it right down the line.

"If I had done a better job executing, especially there against Mr. Ortiz, we should have had the lead."

The Tigers scrapped together just one run in six innings off Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, touching him up for a walk and three singles in the second inning, but reaching base just three times after that.

The run ended Beckett's scoreless streak at 19 1/3 innings, but he used 11 fly-outs to keep the Tigers at bay. He was forced to leave the game after 83 pitches due to neck tightness.

Matt Albers replaced Beckett and pitched a clean seventh, but Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera hit back-to-back home runs off Daniel Bard in the eighth to tie the game at 3. Cabrera hadn't homered since April 30, and Boesch was hitless in his last 15 at-bats.

The Tigers nearly went ahead off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning. Austin Jackson, who has hit safely in 11 straight games, followed Brandon Inge with back-to-back singles, and a walk by Scott Sizemore loaded the bases with one out.

But Boesch couldn't get the runner home, striking out to leave the game in Cabrera's hands.

The slugging first baseman swung through a 97-mph fastball for strike three to once again kill the rally. The Tigers were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position Thursday and are 2-for-24 over their past three games.

"You have to put the ball in play a little bit better," Leyland said. "We're fighting to get that guy in when we have a pretty cheap opportunity to do it. We get one hit away each night from maybe even breaking the game open. We're just not taking advantage of it."

Alburquerque promptly loaded the bases after relieving Verlander in the ninth. Andy Dirks, who drove in his first career run in the second inning, threw out pinch-runner Jose Iglesias at home on Jed Lowrie's knock to shallow left field to keep the game alive, but Crawford sent a base hit to deep center field as the Red Sox celebrated their sixth straight win.

"I was just trying to get a pitch to hit," said Crawford, who also started the rally Wednesday night when he drew a two-out walk with the game tied in the eighth inning. "We had bases loaded with less than two outs, I wasn't trying to do too much but make good contact."

The Tigers have lost three in a row and head to Pittsburgh for Interleague Play on Friday. Comments