DETROIT -- The Tigers have to be feeling encouraged with each scoreless inning Charlie Furbush tosses. The situations that bring him into these games are another matter.
The last time manager Jim Leyland decided to pull Rick Porcello, he had controversy on his hands, and he spent the next couple of days answering questions about it. There was none of that when Leyland brought in Furbush to begin the fourth inning on Friday night, only the damage of a five-run Red Sox third inning en route to a 6-3 Tigers loss.
Furbush's five scoreless innings prevented Boston from having a third straight double-digit-scoring game. His work also left the Tigers a sliver of an opportunity late against Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon, but the damage was too much.
After Porcello's last meeting against the Red Sox two years ago ended with a takedown of Kevin Youkilis and the benches clearing, the rematch ended in a knockout punch.
"They're professional hitters," Porcello said of the Red Sox. "All the way through, they've got guys that know how to play. They'll make you work, and they don't miss pitches. That's the biggest thing -- the mistakes that you throw, they make you pay for them."
The Tigers brought up Furbush as a long reliever, to enter when the Tigers need to fill innings. His 3 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rays on Monday, however, changed the course of that game, allowing the Tigers to mount a comeback and overcome Phil Coke's injury.
Coke's bruised foot created a starting opportunity for Andy Oliver -- who will take the hill on Saturday -- not Furbush, who instead was given three days off of throwing to rest his arm. Friday was his first game available.
Furbush's presence wasn't looking quite as necessary, as Porcello worked through the Red Sox order with little incident. The second time around was a different story.
"Rick was just all over the place," Leyland said.
Jacoby Ellsbury hit a leadoff bloop single, stole second and eventually scored on a wild pitch. He rounded the bases the easy way in the third by hitting his second homer in as many nights. Dustin Pedroia's walk and Adrian Gonzalez's single put two on for Youkilis, who drove a double to the wall in right-center.
Two batters later came Carl Crawford, coming off back-to-back four-hit games. He had only one hit on Friday, but it was a two-run homer off Porcello, and it completed the damage.
"Some of our lefties, they got pitches a little out over the plate and up, and [Crawford] put good swings on them," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He's got good stuff. He's going to be fine."
Porcello finished his three innings at 75 pitches, nine shy of his pitch count over eight scoreless innings at Pittsburgh last Sunday. He gave up six runs on six hits.
"Last start, I commanded my pitches," Porcello said. "That was the biggest thing. I was able to keep guys off-balance, getting ahead of guys, throwing strikes [with the] fastball, slider, changeup. This time around it wasn't the case. I was falling behind guys, putting them in counts where they were going to get good pitches to hit."
Furbush began the fourth inning by facing the bottom of the Boston batting order and got on a roll, beginning with a strikeout of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. In the fifth, he overcame Gonzalez's leadoff single by recording back-to-back strikeouts of David Ortiz and Crawford, then he retired six straight batters from the sixth into the eighth.
Included in that roll were called third strikes on Gonzalez and Youkilis. The first was an offspeed pitch he dropped on the inside corner. The second was a belt-high fastball that he used to freeze Youkilis.
"I was just throwing all my pitches for strikes," Furbush said, "trying to attack the zone and keep the ball down and keep the team in the game for as long as I could."
Add together Furbush's two appearances, and he has nine strikeouts over 8 2/3 scoreless innings. He has the longest scoreless streak by a Tiger to begin his Major League career since Chris Mears lasted 10 1/3 innings in 2003.
When Furbush arrived, Leyland said that he wanted to see his ability to retire hitters on pitches in the strike zone. Friday was a demonstration of that. And with Detroit's bullpen in flux between David Purcey's arrival and Ryan Perry's demotion, Leyland hinted that he could find some more specialized situations for Furbush.
The way the Red Sox are hitting lately, though, the Tigers' long relief is getting a workout. Boston's big lead left Detroit hitters swinging early and often against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
Nearly 20 years after Wakefield helped Leyland's Pirates to the postseason, his rare pitch continues to confound hitters when it's on. He has given up six home runs in a game in Detroit and pitched eight scoreless innings. His seven innings of two-run ball on Friday fell somewhere in between.
"He's a knuckleball pitcher. You either hit him really well, or you don't," catcher Alex Avila said. "We hit a lot of balls hard today and made some really nice plays. It was just one of those days where we needed to come through as an offense. We hit a lot of balls hard, but just had nothing to show for it."