BOSTON -- The Tigers have had some ugly games in this road stretch that has seen them lose six of their last nine. This wasn't one of them.
Really, Wednesday's 6-4 loss to the Red Sox was the kind of game that leaves them wondering what more they can do in Fenway Park. For rookie starter Drew Smyly, who watched two pitches turn into four runs and a no-decision, he's learning that quickly.
"Things aren't really going our way right now," Smyly said. "I don't think we're playing bad. I mean, we're just getting some tough breaks, losing some tight ballgames. It's baseball. That's why you play 162, because you're going to have stretches when everything's going your way and you're going to have stretches when everything's going against you. You just have to battle through it."
For catcher Alex Avila, who watched what might have been strike three to Daniel Nava and the end of the seventh inning turn into the go-ahead rally from the middle of the order, it's nothing new.
"It happens like that in this park," said Avila. "We've done it to teams. It's happened to us. As easy as they scored four, we can score four or five. The park can do that. Just the way it is.
"You can score quickly at times. They just happened to score a couple more than we did."
The Tigers, who have lost seven consecutive games at Fenway dating back to July 31, 2010, used up 27 pitches from Jon Lester in the opening inning and got one run out of a bases-loaded jam. They added two more with a pair of third-inning doubles and an alert piece of baserunning from Miguel Cabrera, who took off for home after Will Middlebrooks fielded Prince Fielder's grounder at third. After the Boston rookie looked at a stationary Cabrera, he threw over to first, which allowed Cabrera to dash for home.
Four batters and a pair of two-run homers in the fourth turned it from a 3-0 gem in the works from Smyly, who had faced the minimum 11 batters going into that stretch, into a 4-3 game.
Eleven batters, eleven outs, double, homer, bloop single, homer. That's how quickly it can turn at Fenway.
Smyly struck out David Ortiz swinging at three pitches, capped by a fastball in, while he was dominating the early innings. When Papi came back up in the fourth after Adrian Gonzalez's double extended the inning, Smyly tried the same pitch and watched Ortiz send the ball into the center-field bleachers.
"David Ortiz, he's been one of the best for a while," Smyly shrugged. "Just tip your cap to that. I went and looked at the replay. That was right where I wanted it."
Smyly's first-pitch changeup to Middlebrooks two batters later, by contrast, was a pitch he wanted, a hanger that Middlebrooks sent over the Green Monster.
It was Smyly's sixth two-run homer in his last four starts, accounting for 12 of the 15 earned runs he has allowed in that stretch.
"That's how baseball goes," Smyly said. "Sometimes it just takes a little momentum when things are going your way, just a hit, home run, then a flare and another home run. It's tough."
If that was tough, the go-ahead two-out rally the Red Sox put together in the seventh once the Tigers tied it in the top of the inning was long, slow torture by comparison.
After Miguel Cabrera's bloop RBI single fell out of Gonzalez's reach to give the Tigers new life in a 4-4 game, Octavio Dotel was a strike away from sending them back up for the eighth. He sent down Kelly Shoppach and Nick Punto swinging, then put Daniel Nava in a 1-2 hole.
Dotel couldn't get Nava to chase a slider off the plate, but he saw him foul off a cutter up. He came back with a cutter on the outside corner and might well have had him.
"The umpire told Alex he missed the third strike on [Nava], the 2-2 pitch," manager Jim Leyland said. "The umpire was man enough to admit it. There's nothing you can do about it. He just missed it."
Avila seconded Leyland's account. He did not complain about it.
"He said it was probably there," Avila said of home-plate umpire Chris Guccione. "I mean, I thought it was a strike, but you can't ... I mean, the next batter, we had 0-2 on [Mike] Aviles. We didn't make a pitch there. There's not too much to complain about right there."
Nava walked. Aviles swung and missed at two cutters high before getting a third over the plate and grounding it through the right side to bring up Gonzalez and force the relief change.
Enter Phil Coke, a longtime Red Sox nemesis from his younger days with the Yankees, and enter another 0-2 count. He threw three straight breaking balls to Gonzalez, who fouled off the first two before getting enough of the third to pull it over Brennan Boesch's head and bounce it into the right-field seats for a ground-rule RBI double.
"That was a heck of a pitch," Avila said. "[He] maybe wanted it a little bit down more in the dirt, but still it was a heck of a pitch. He just was able to reach out there and just kind of golfed it."
Said Gonzalez: "He can run the fastball through you, and I saw the pitches and took a hack at them like they were fastballs. And after the two strikes, I thought he might go fastball or stay slider and try to stay on it and he left one over the plate."
Just like that, the Tigers had the same fate.
"Good ballgame," Leyland said. "We just didn't do enough."