BOSTON -- Miguel Cabrera returned to the Tigers lineup Thursday, two days after a Junichi Tazawa fastball off his left hand knocked him out of the game.

Cabrera started the game in his usual spot at first base, batting fourth. He went 1-for-4 with a key double, scoring one of the game's two runs in the Tigers' 2-0 victory over the Red Sox.

Cabrera missed Wednesday's game with lingering soreness around the base of his left thumb, which was where the pitch struck him. He indicated he was having trouble swinging without pain.

Manager Jim Leyland didn't indicate that Cabrera is pain-free, but he's well enough to play.

"It feels sore," Cabrera said after the game. "Today, it feels a bit better. "I took some swings in the cage. I said I can play like that."

Cabrera hit was key, a fourth-inning line drive to right field in which Cabrera took second base when it bounced away from right fielder Josh Reddick for an error. That allowed Cabrera to advance to third on Carlos Guillen's groundout and score on Ryan Raburn's two-out infield single.

Cabrera made another key play with a runner on first and one out an inning earlier, when he knocked down Reddick's drive and threw to second base from the ground for the force out. That prevented a run when Victor Martinez followed with a single.

Leyland still doesn't want to say much publicly about Tuesday's fracas that developed out of the hit-by-pitch. But when he read pitching coach John Farrell's comments about pitching inside to Cabrera, he was puzzled.

A piece in the Boston Herald from Wednesday quotes Farrell saying that throwing inside pitches to Cabrera was their strategy.

"First and foremost, we threw a couple of fastballs up and in to Miguel the last couple of nights," Farrell told the paper. "There's a reason why he wears an arm pad. And there is a hole up and in there that many pitchers try to exploit.

"That's no different in this series. I think the pitch [Tuesday], if you looked at the replay, that was actually between home plate and the batter's box. Yes, it was elevated. But it wasn't like it was thrown at him. There was execution of a pitch. He's on top of the plate, plus he dives out over the plate. That's his hitting style."

Leyland doesn't question that, and neither he nor many of the Tigers believe Tazawa was trying to hit Cabrera intentionally. What Leyland wondered is whether the same strategy wouldn't apply to Kevin Youkilis and others.

"I kind of agree with it," Leyland said. "But what I didn't understand was, when I look at Youkilis and [Dustin] Pedroia, Youkilis had an armpad on that looked like an inner tube. And Pedroia's got an armpad on. And they dive. So we're not supposed to pitch them in? I understand the comments, but I didn't understand the point.

"What's the armpad have to do with it? Their guys got armpads. Our guys got armpads. Theirs are red. Mine's blue. What's the difference? I assume what he means is that if he was pitching against Pedroia or Youkilis, he'd pitch inside, which makes a lot of sense."

Youkilis entered Thursday tied for fourth among American League hitters in hit-by-pitches with 10. Detroit's Brandon Inge ranked second with 14. Cabrera has been hit five times.