With Alex Wilson unavailable due to shoulder fatigue, the Tigers turned to Bruce Rondon with a one-run lead in the ninth inning and the top of the order due up.
Rondon struck out Rusney Castillo and got Xander Bogaerts to fly out to center before battling David Ortiz to a full count and an eventual walk.
Ortiz had already inflicted his usual damage against the Tigers before the walk, going 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored.
Rondon got Pablo Sandoval to strike out looking at a slider to end the game. The Tigers beat the Red Sox, 7-6, on Saturday night at Comerica Park.
Detroit Tigers’ Rajai Davis (20) is congratulated by Anthony Gose (12) after scoring on a two-run home run off Boston Red Sox pitcher Wade Miley during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
“I said it the other day, he’s got a different look, he’s got a different look in his eye,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Rondon. “He looks confident. He’s attacking the hitters. He’s attacking with his fastball. He’s not trying to trick them. He’s going right at them and he did a very good job tonight. And he pitched intelligently tonight as well.”
As for the Ortiz at-bat, Ausmus said of Rondon: “You don’t want to just groove one to David Ortiz in a one-run game. He’s very capable of tying it. He’s hit us very well this year. He was intelligent about how he approached it.”
Rondon earned his first save of the season. He has fanned 25 batters over 16.2 innings this season.
Wilson has been the guy the Tigers relied on in save situations since the trade of Joakim Soria, but Ausmus said Wilson wasn’t available.
“His shoulder is a little cranky,” Ausmus said. “This is the second time in the span of a week that he’s complained of it. We don’t think it is anything more than fatigue.”
Wilson didn’t seem overly concerned when he spoke to reporters after the game.
“Just trying to give me a couple extra days here,” Wilson said. “Packed a bunch of innings in a short amount of time. Just trying to listen to the body. We’ve got a long ways to go here. A couple days here, where we’re at right now, is what’s best for me. I think it’s going to be best for the team as well.”
The Tigers took the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh on a two-out, two-run home run by Victor Martinez off Junichi Tazawa.
“I got a changeup, split, whatever he throws,” Martinez said. “I’m glad to help the team win. That ball didn’t get caught.”
“You want to square the ball up every time you go to the plate. You know, at some point you definitely want results.”
Martinez acknowledged it was a big win, after the teams traded leads in the middle innings.
“It’s good to end up in the good side,” Martinez said. “We’ve been having some battles and coming in the wrong side. Definitely felt great to pull this game out.”
The Red Sox scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take a 6-5 lead on a two-out, two-run single by Ortiz with the bases loaded off lefty Blaine Hardy. Ortiz hit a solo home run in the sixth inning. He also hit a double and scored in the first inning on a sac fly.
Alfredo Simon, who had a couple extra days to rest a sore groin, allowed six runs on nine hits and one walk over 6 2/3 innings with one strikeout for the Tigers.
The Tigers scored twice in the fifth, three times in the sixth and twice more in the seventh.
J.D. Martinez hit an RBI double on a ground ball past Sandoval to tie the game, 3-3, in the sixth. J.D. Martinez scored from third on a wild pitch by Wade Miley to take a 4-3 lead and James McCann added an RBI double for a two-run cushion.
The Red Sox answered in the top of the seventh. Simon gave up back-to-back singles to Alejando De Aza and Nick Swihart with no outs. Jackie Bradley Jr. flied out to right and Brock Holt popped out to third.
Rusney Castillo hit a soft grounder to third and beat the throw by Nick Castellanos, which allowed De Aza to score, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 5-4. Bogaerts followed with a single to load the bases.
Hardy replaced Simon and gave up the two-run single to Ortiz.
The Red Sox had taken a 3-2 lead on a solo home run in the sixth by Ortiz. It was his 21st home run at Comerica Park, the most of any visiting player. It was Ortiz’s team-leading 23rd home run of the season.
The home run by Ortiz came after Rajai Davis hit a two-out, game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth, tying the game, 2-2. It was Davis’ third home run this season.
The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead after scoring runs in the first and third innings off Simon.
Ortiz doubled off the wall in center in the second and came home on a sacrifice fly by Travis Shaw. Swihart led off the third with a single and scored when the Tigers just missed turning a double play on a ground ball by Castillo.